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Magic Moylan leads Panthers over Manly

AAP logoAAP 4/09/2016 By Matt Encarnacion

Penrith have sent an ominous warning to week-one finals opponents Canterbury with a first-half demolition of Manly in the last game of the NRL regular season.

Panthers skipper Matt Moylan whipped Sunday's season-high Pepper Stadium crowd of 15,411 into a frenzy with a hand in four tries in the 36-6 rout.

Winger Josh Mansour nabbed a double, while rookie Nathan Cleary kicked six from six.

The Panthers' win, their fifth in succession and seventh in eight games, clinched sixth spot and set up an intriguing elimination final against an out-of-form Bulldogs at Allianz Stadium next Sunday.

For the Sea Eagles, their fifth straight defeat leaves them with a 13th-placed finish and plenty of thinking to do for first-year coach Trent Barrett.

Working out the futures of injured veterans Brett Stewart and Steve Matai will be foremost.

Moylan was unstoppable from the kickoff.

He set up Mansour's first try in the fourth minute before igniting a six-minute points avalanche midway through the first stanza by sending Bryce Cartwright on his way.

The home side went 100 metres on the next set, Moylan deftly positioning Waqa Blake for a clear run and an after-burning Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to finish the movement.

Three minutes later, he conjured a passage between the posts for hooker Peter Wallace.

Some friendly fire from Trent Merrin at one stage was the only thing that slowed the incumbent NSW Origin pivot. He finished the game with three try- and four line break-assists.

Rookie Nathan Cleary converted Mansour's second try on the stroke of halftime and the Panthers walked from the field with a 30-0 lead and to a standing ovation.

Blake added a sixth try just minutes into the restart before the home side took the foot of the pedal.

Wallace was rewarded with his first rest of the season as Jake Trbojevic crossed for the Sea Eagles to level the second half six-all.

Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said Moylan, who made his Origin debut this year, had done a good job of leading his team for the past month in particular.

"The best thing about him is, playing a lot of football, he's playing at the line and he ain't got any errors in him. He's leading the team that way," he said.

"When we open up a little bit, it's controlled and it's not frivolous with the ball. He's doing a really good job of it."

Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett praised his team for not giving up in the second half but said their poor first half proved how far they'll have to improve next year.

"The first half, 30 points wasn't good enough. We've got some work to do," he said.

"We obviously had some guys out there who were young and a few inexperienced but there's no excuse for the first half.

"Second half we came out. They did well. It could've gotten really ugly. We didn't have a hell of a lot to play for tonight but we did have a lot of pride to play for. We just let ourselves down the first half."

NRL FINALS, WEEK ONE:

* 1st Elimination Final

Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans, Friday September 9, Suncorp Stadium, 8pm (AEST)

* 1st Qualifying Final

Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks, Saturday September 10, GIO Stadium, 5.30pm

* 2nd Qualifying Final

Melbourne Storm v North Queensland Cowboys, Saturday September 10, AAMI Park, 8pm

* 2nd Elimination Final

Penrith Panthers v Canterbury Bulldogs, Sunday September 11, Allianz Stadium, 4pm

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