Minor premiership in balance for Manly - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Minor premiership in balance for Manly

By Liam Fitzgibbon 06/09/2008 09:20:41 PM Comments (0)

Manly boosted their NRL minor premiership hopes but still left the door open for Melbourne to reclaim it after an unconvincing 34-16 win over Penrith at CUA Stadium.

The Sea Eagles looked set to run away with the game after leading 18-6 midway through the first half but the Panthers remained in contention for most of the match despite the fact their season was already over.

The result means the Storm need to beat South Sydney by more than 26 points on Sunday night to claim back-to-back minor premierships.

"We'll have to cheer home the Rabbits and see what they can do, a little bit of an upset would be nice," outgoing Sea Eagles backrower Steve Menzies said after the win.

"It's out of our hands really... obviously we would have liked to have put as many points as we could.

"We probably scored enough points but we probably just let too many in tonight.

"Des (coach Hasler) should offer them (Souths) a case of beers or something."

Winger David Williams scored twice for the Sea Eagles while Menzies, brothers Glenn and Brett Stewart and centre Steve Bell also had four-pointers in slippery conditions.

The Panthers, who were without Luke Lewis due to a hamstring strain, scored through Tony Puletua, Paul Aiton and Nathan Smith in a gutsy performance in front of little more than 6000 fans.

Manly's coach was pleased the win had guaranteed his side a top two finish and home final but admitted there was still plenty to improve upon.

"We're pretty happy with the 34 (points), but the players and myself are probably a bit disappointed with the 16 they put on us," Hasler said.

"We were probably just a little bit off with our defence tonight.

"We should have put them away a lot earlier than we probably did."

"But first or second - that's tied up and that was the main objective tonight, it was to simply win and get one of those top two places tied up."

After Williams had bagged his double inside 25 minutes, the Sea Eagles look set to run away with it but Aiton's try on the stroke of halftime made it 18-12 at the break to keep the Panthers in the Hunt.

Lock Smith had the Panthers back within two just after halftime after Luke Rooney had batted back a Jarrod Sammut cross-field kick, but Michael Gordon's attempted conversion hit the upright.

Glenn Stewart gave the Sea Eagles some breathing space when he crashed over in the 54th minute and they put the result beyond doubt when brother Brett strode over with 12 on the clock.

With three minutes left, Bell strode through some soft defence to score what could be a crucial try in the minor premiership race.

Menzies limped off late in the match with a hamstring injury, though he is expected to be fit for the finals while Jamie Lyon made a successful return from a knee injury.

The match may have been the last in charge for Penrith coach Matthew Elliott with speculation he could be sacked on Sunday after an extraordinary board meeting.

"I don't think they're gathering to discuss spreadsheets," Elliott said of the meeting.

The home fans stayed after the match to farewell Panthers veterans Tony Puletua (going to St Helens, England), Luke Priddis (St George Illawarra), Rhys Wesser (Souths) and Luke Rooney (Toulon, France).

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