Cherry on top: DCE takes down the Panthers with showing for the ages as he overtakes Lyons’ record


The have been some some great nights over the years in this part of the Northern Beaches, and you can stick this one right up there with the best of them.

On the night that Daly Cherry-Evans overtook Cliff Lyons to become the most capped Sea Eagle ever, the halfback produced a masterclass to upset the three-time Premiers and inspire his side to a 32-18 victory.

It was his 310th game in maroon and white, all of them in the number 7 jumper, and few will have been better.

There was a try, six goals, multiple try assists and, most of all, bucketloads of leadership.

His teammates wouldn’t have needed much geeing up to go with him, but even so, they rose to the occasion.

Nathan Brown was cheered off in just his fifth game on the Northern Beaches after a performance of almost masochistic intensity, throwing himself into James Fisher-Harris, Isaah Yeo and Moses, returning the ball like he had a personal vendetta against potential kick off rule changes.

Penrith didn’t know what hit them. Ivan Cleary’s men were genuinely rattled, forced into multiple penalties by the Sea Eagles willingness to change the point of attack and repelled on multiple occasions by stern goalline defence.

They have managed well enough without Nathan Cleary, but as the cauldron boiled around them on a raucous night at 4 Pines Park, they badly needed his calming head.

Only Dylan Edwards, who scored a hat trick, stood up with Fisher-Harris, who didn’t start the game, and Yeo just a shade off their best.

Ivan Cleary can point to a dubious try for Tolu Koula, who raced away for an intercept when it looked like Jaxson Paulo had knocked on, but the Bunker let it stand.

Anthony Seibold will instead point to the intensity with which his team attacked the game and honoured their captain.

It came at a cost, with Reuben Garrick knocked out early and Liam Henry going the same way not long after, while Jarome Luai also left before the end.

Don’t back down, double down

Manly, and Seibold in particular, were ridiculed for their attempt to take on the Panthers last year by playing slightly madcap, massively expansive football.

The logic was that they were highly unlikely to beat Penrith at their own game and thus had to try something else, and while the execution drew sneers, the broader point was absolutely correct.

It wasn’t a surprise to see them try something similar again.

We didn’t see a kicking duel here – there’s your obligatory mention – but we did see a lot of the same style, with the Sea Eagles trying to move the Panthers’ line around, pushing the envelope with the footy and trying to have a crack pretty much every time they had the ball.

They used Taniela Paseka, pretty much their main strike weapon in the middle, almost exclusively as a dummy runner, drawing defenders in and then going out the back into shape.

They had both Brown and Jake Trbojevic ball-playing in the middle to shift the ruck yet wider.

The difference perhaps, is that Manly now do this all the time. It’s less of a surprise, but they’re a lot better at it. This is what Seibold has tried to get them to do in every game.

The result was a very strange situation at halftime. They had 27 sets to 18, so 60% of the opportunities with the ball, but only 52% of the possession.

Possession is measured by time whereas sets, obviously, is measured by sets –the discrepancy comes partly from the ten infringements that the Panthers had to just three from the Sea Eagles, but also how much faster Manly were playing than the Panthers.

What was most interesting is how Manly upped the speed as the game wore on. For 15 minutes, it was as expected, with Penrith strangling the Sea Eagles with territory and possession, but the game turned on the entry of Brown and Toff Sipley.

After the break, it was Josh Aloiai, with some punishing carries, and Paseka, who carried it up.

The pace was relentless and, probably, unsustainable. That’s where the crowd, the emotion and the occasion took over.

Penrith thrown off their game

Cleary wasn’t pleased with his side’s line speed at the break, but a lot of that was down to what Manly were doing.

That said, the ball control from his side was down on where it usually is. It will be a long time since they were 63% in completions at half time, which will cause problems for any team.

The usual mark of a Panthers side is extreme patience and willingness to build, but faced with a Manly side that simply refused to play that kind of game, it didn’t work.

In fairness, most teams won’t play like this against them, and the mood of the evening lent itself towards the sometimes chaotic, always frenetic style of play.

It’s not really a blueprint to beat the Panthers and, realistically, Penrith would win most of the time against most teams that play like this.

There was plenty in it for Penrith in the way that they refused to go away and kept plugging away until the end.

Edwards remains an example of how far you can get on effort, but nights like this prove that he is far, far more than just that as well.

When Nathan isn’t there, Luai is playing hurt and Yeo a little below his best, Edwards can elevate his game to be one of the very best as well.

The backfield, too, kept at their bit and ensured that the pressure always went both ways. It’s just that Manly met it, and then some.

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