Cleary’s replacement, Jarome Luai, and Sea Eagles bench forward Jack Gosiewski were both sent to the sin bin for a second-half scuffle as the visitors, missing Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans and the Trbojevic brothers, only made a contest of it in the dying stages.
The result lifts Penrith above the Titans and Bulldogs – albeit temporarily – and suddenly gives their fans hope the mountain they need to scale to make the finals might not be as insurmountable as first thought.
And it was thanks to Martin.
He set up Dylan Edwards’ first try and pounced on a Brendan Elliot clanger in his breakout NRL game as James Fisher-Harris was a colossus in the middle of the park for the Panthers.
From start to finish, the match screamed Origin period.
A couple of NSW stars abandoned Bondi for the night but needed to share body warmth on the sideline. James Maloney was arguing the toss – not his exclusion from the Blues side but rather why when someone whacks him around the chops he didn’t get a penalty. Instead the referee pinged him for being so eager to remonstrate with him he didn’t play the ball properly.
In the final few seconds of the half Maloney kicked a near 40-metre field which was so remarkable on an unremarkable night barely anyone noticed. It crept over the crossbar and handed Penrith a 9-0 buffer at the break.
The Penrith crowd celebrated Edwards’ try by listening to the mind-numbing YouTube hit tune Baby Shark, an apparent nod from the fullback to his infant daughter. It was that type of night.
Luai and Gosiewski were sin binned after the Panthers five-eighth was incensed with Gosiewski’s high shot on Penrith rookie Brian To’o 11 minutes into the second half.
Martin’s try seemed to seal it for the Panthers, but Manase Fainu and Cade Cust crossed inside the last 10 minutes.
PENRITH PANTHERS 15 (Dylan Edwards, Liam Martin tries; James Maloney 3 goals, field goal) defeated MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES 12 (Manase Fainu, Cade Cust tries; Reuben Garrick 2 goals) at Panthers Stadium: Referees: Ben Cummins, Peter Gough. Crowd: 7981.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.