Manly Warringah Sea Eagles suffered a 28-6 loss to reigning premiers Penrith Panthers in Penrith tonight in the opening round of the Telstra Premiership.
The match saw exciting young back Tolu Koula make his NRL debut for the Sea Eagles (#633) with second-rower Ethan Bullemor (#632) making his Club debut for Manly.
The loss made it nine years in a row since Manly won a first round match.
In front of a crowd of 16, 901, the Sea Eagles almost opened the match in flying fashion and were metres away from finding the line only to be held back by some desperate Penrith defence in the opening minute.
The Panthers moved down the field and looked to have scored with their first chance, only for the play to be overturned after Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran was obstructed in the lead-up to the try.
The Panthers were again denied a try in the ninth minute after winger Brian To’o was deemed to have run behind his own player. A tackle earlier, Manly full-back Tom Trbojevic and prop Toafofoa Sipley combined for a stunning try-saving effort, holding the ball back inches from the line.
Match Highlights: Panthers v Sea Eagles
Penrith centre Izack Tago then carried three players over with him to score in the left corner. Centre Stephen Crichton converted for a 6-0 lead.
After being awarded a penalty deep inside the Sea Eagles territory, the Panthers chose to take the two with Crichton converting the penalty goal to extend his side’s lead to 8-0 in the 25th minute.
Crichton then scored the Panthers second try four minutes later after crossing out wide for a 12-0 lead.
On the stroke of half-time, the Sea Eagles dived over for their first try through Bullemor. The ball was shifted to the left edge after a dummy pass and landed in the hands of Tom Trbojevic who offloaded the ball as he fell to send the back-rower on his way to the line. Winger Reuben Garrick converted the try to take the score to 12-6 at half-time.
Penrith five-eighth Jarome Luai scored the first try of the second half in the 45th minute after slipping through two defenders on the left edge. Crichton’s conversion attempt was successful, extending his side's lead to 18-6.
Ten minutes later, Panthers hooker Apisai Koroisau barged over two defenders to score with Crichton converting for a 24-6 lead.
Koula made his NRL debut with eight minutes remaining in the match, hoping to add some speed and energy into the attack. His first touch of the ball was a blistering run inside the ten on the left edge, having to be stopped by two players with some strong defence.
Penrith scored in the 77th minute through second-rower Liam Martin. Crichton’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful for the 28-6 scoreline.
The Sea Eagles play the Sydney Roosters at the Sydney Cricket Ground in round two of the Telstra Premiership, on Friday March 18, at 8.05pm.