If you want to know what can change in four weeks, just ask Manly coach Des Hasler.
Four weeks ago, the Sea Eagles were crushed 46-6 at home and Hasler appeared to be out of answers.
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After the Thursday night embarrassment at home, he could only say they “weren’t in the game” and “couldn’t do the fundamentals”.
The Sea Eagles had lost four straight and were languishing at the bottom of the ladder.
But it was the week before the side’s first win of the season, a 13-12 win over the New Zealand Warriors, before the return of Tom Trbojevic.
Now eight weeks into the season, fresh off three straight wins leading into the rematch against the Panthers, the Sea Eagles are a completely different side.
While they lost 28-16, it’s clear the Sea Eagles are a real premiership threat.
The commentators were critical of the Sea Eagles’ first half, Manly took the undefeated Panthers to the break at 16-6, which was only out to 10 points after a late try first half to Liam Martin.
Despite being well in the game, Sea Eagles coach went ballistic at halftime.
“You can see Des Hasler laying down the law to his troops because they simply haven’t turned up,” Michael Ennis said at halftime on Fox League.
Coming after an all-time round one belting in round one to the Roosters, followed by big losses to the Rabbitohs, Dragons and Penrith before the turnaround, the Sea Eagles have definitely got life in 2021, despite not being able to complete a comeback over the Panthers in Bathurst.
From 16-6 at halftime, the Sea Eagles were first to score through Daly Cherry-Evans, who gathered the ball after it hit the post and landed in his hands.
The Sea Eagles went close again several times, only to be denied by last gasp tackles on the Panthers goal line.
The Panthers were next to score through Tyrone May chasing down a Nathan Cleary grubber but the game was still in the balance.
Manly set up a grandstand finish with Jason Saab running around the Panthers defence and continuing to challenge for the fastest man in the NRL.
Penrith wrapped it up when Stephen Crichton scored after Martin dived over the dead ball line, scooping it back to his centre.
But Fox League commentator Steve Roach said the performance was nothing to sneeze at.
“I’d be disappointed about getting beat if I was Manly but they’re back, don’t worry,” he said. “They’ve been beaten by the best side in the competition.”
After the game, the Hasler explosion continued but Ennis said this is how this side is different after four weeks of good football.
“12-10 in the second half, that’s with the team that’s coming first,” Ennis said. “He knows what they’re capable of. They missed the jump in the first half, he’d be dirty with the first half. They let Penrith put the foot down.”
The 16 points was the most by any side scored against Penrith all season as well.