“You always go through tough periods,” Hasler said as he lost Morgan Boyle (dislocated shoulder) and Moses Suli (back) to injury. “This is another one. I think these experiences are certainly going to be part of our recovery.
“You would like to have the first 20 minutes over again. We’re just not in the game, turning the ball over and we’re not in the game with that kind of discipline. We’ll turn up and keep aiming up to get through.”
Sea Eagles majority owner and chairman Scott Penn has suffered through the last two weeks holed up in hotel quarantine in Sydney. He spends the majority of his time in New York on business these days.
What price would he have given to be a million miles from Brookvale on Thursday night?
Penn was finally freed from isolation on Thursday morning, but the first half was enough to send him scrambling back under the hotel blankets. They might have played the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Panthers in the first month, but no Manly fan would expect their team to be this far off the pace.
Penrith’s only real opposition in the first quarter was the clock. By the time it ticked over 25 minutes, Ivan Cleary’s side had raced to 22-0 lead.
Even when play seemingly broke down with the ball hitting the ground, the Panthers still managed to score. Brian To’o jogged up the tunnel at half-time with two tries, Moses Leota scored through the middle like it was a training run and, a week after his heroics in the final seconds against Melbourne, Viliame Kikau was again getting down low to pick up a deflected kick to score.
The Sea Eagles’ only response came when Cade Cust sliced open Penrith’s defence from a Sean Keppie offload. Even then it seemed nothing more than a consolation.
“It’s early days, but I’m happy with what I’m seeing,” coach Cleary said. “You don’t win the comp in March. It was a big emotional game last week, and I thought this week was a challenge mentally for us. It was very professional, I thought.”
Greats of Manly’s past such as Max Krilich and Steve Menzies were still roaming the Brookvale terraces, and the club’s future looks bright with a bunch of promising junior sides.
The problem is the present. Hasler has a new contract extension in his back pocket, but the last time that happened we all know how it finished at the Bulldogs.
Kikau grabbed his second after half-time. Burton barrelled over. Last week’s hero Kurt Capewell got in on the act after two kicks in the lead-up by Cleary.
It was all too much for the Manly fans who spilled for the exits, hoping for an Easter miracle. At least their fullback should be resurrected next week.
PENRITH PANTHERS 46 (Brian To’o 2, Viliame Kikau 2, Moses Leota, Matt Burton, Kurt Capewell, Paul Momirovski tries; Nathan Cleary 7 goals) defeated MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES 6 (Cade Cust try; Reuben Garrick goal) at Lottoland. Referee: Matt Cecchin. Crowd: 6076.
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Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.