There was no more fitting tribute for revered Immortal Bob Fulton than Manly’s 28-6 victory over Parramatta on Sunday.
Mourning the death of the Sea Eagles legend from cancer at the age of 74 on Sunday, Manly put in a performance that would have made one of their most influential figures a proud former captain and coach of the club.
Down to 12 men in both halves, the Sea Eagles showed passion and grit that was a throwback to the days to when Fulton dominated the game as a centre and five-eighth in the 1960s and 1970s and made him an Immortal.
Fittingly, a five-eighth shone brightly for Manly against the Eels.
Josh Schuster’s subtlety with the ball in hand tricked the Eels defence each time he ran, with the 20-year-old setting up three tries in the 22-point win.
The 106-kilogram Schuster has been playing second row with Kieran Foran the first-choice five-eighth, and he almost ran out in the forwards again on Sunday if not for a mysterious leg injury to Cade Cust.
Schuster’s last-minute switch into the halves linked him with try-scorer Tom Trbojevic, and the two of them lit up the Western Sydney Stadium on a sad day for the club.
Fulton masterminded Manly’s never give in attitude in premiership wins as coach and captain, and would have been thrilled with Sunday’s victory.
It was the Eels’ first loss in six games and Manly’s most important win against a genuine premiership threat this season.
Karl Lawton rode the full spectrum of rugby league emotions in his debut for the club, scoring a try a minute after he was subbed onto the field, only to be sin-binned soon after.
His shoulder caught the chin of Eels enforcer Nathan Brown and he was given a time-out for the effort.
Manly went down to 12 men, but looked a side with a full complement of troops by the way they defended their line.
The Eels had an extra player but could not stop Brad Parker scoring his double at the other end on the back of a brilliant sideline chip from Rueben Garrick, who later scored one of his own.
Parker’s try gave Manly a 16-6 lead to kick on with after the break, with Clint Gutherson the lone try-scorer for the Eels.
Manly gave the Eels a sniff late in the second half when Jake Trbojevic was sin-binned for a professional foul, but not even the Eels’ craftiest players could crack the defence.
Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans was put on report towards the end of the first half for a high shot on Mitch Moses, but should be free to play next week if he’s given a fine by the match review committee.
Should he be charged with a heavier offence and face suspension it will cause headaches for Queensland selectors with State of Origin teams to be picked next Sunday.
Parramatta’s Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Waqa Blake will face an anxious wait too after they were both sin-binned for high shots late in the game.
Lawton and Toafofoa Sipley were also put on report, rounding off another huge weekend for the match review committee and NRL officials.
Panthers humiliate Rabbitohs in Dubbo
Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai have made an almost irresistible case to be the New South Wales halves pairing after leading Penrith to a 56-12 annihilation of South Sydney.
The Panthers’ win made them just the fifth side in history to start the season with 11 straight wins.
Matt Burton scored a hat-trick and set up two tries on his old home ground in Dubbo as part of the Panthers’ nine-try haul.
Billed as a State of Origin trial between Luai and incumbent Cody Walker, the Panthers number six easily claimed bagging rights as his combination with Cleary continues to flourish.
Luai put Penrith on the front foot when he turned a ball back inside for Burton to go through a hole in the fourth minute.
Cleary made the most of it two plays later, spinning through the line for the first of his two tries.
Luai’s other main involvement came when he and Cleary combined to put Burton over for his first try, with the centre going over almost untouched from Luai’s pass.
In comparison, Walker’s afternoon summed up the Rabbitohs day.
He put a ball into touch from the Rabbitohs’ first attacking chance from a scrum, threw another forward pass on attack and had Cleary run through him twice for tries.
The 31-year-old claimed a late second-half try himself when the game was done, stepping through the line as the Rabbitohs ran it on the last.
Sunday was meant to be Penrith’s biggest test against a Rabbitohs side boosted by Latrell Mitchell’s return.
But instead, the Rabbitohs were outclassed early in the contest, going behind 28-0 after 33 minutes.
Mitchell put on some nice touches in the second half, but with Penrith dominating territory and possession his chances were limited.
Burton had a field day after handing out 45 tickets to family and friends.
His second try came when he leapt over former teammate Josh Mansour to take a Cleary kick, before his third also came when a Cleary bomb bounced.
The 21-year-old then capped off his performance when Luai again put him into a hole and he turned back inside for Stephen Crichton to finish the job.
The only concern for Penrith could be Kurt Capewell being put on report for a crusher tackle, but he would be free to play Origin I for Queensland unless it is a grade-two charge.