Penrith Panthers on the cusp of NRL top eight after hard-fought win over Manly Sea Eagles | photos, video

Queensland's selectors slept easy on Saturday night knowing they won't have to answer any further questions about why Daly Cherry-Evans wasn't called up for State of Origin three, but that's not because Manly's halfback failed to fire against Penrith. 

He certainly wasn't drained or demoralised after his man-of-the-match performance against the Warriors last week wasn't rewarded with a Maroons berth, but Cherry-Evans' hopes of smearing egg on the face of his state selectors were thwarted by his own teammates in a 16-8 defeat to Penrith.

He was composed, calculated and, as usual, clever, playing a pivotal role in Manly's two tries but the nimble playmaker was let down by the pack he steered. 

Their count of penalties conceded more than tripled Penrith's in a match where the Sea Eagles were undone by a plethora of self-inflicted wounds. 

"How are you going to win a game when you're 14-4 [down in the penalty count]," Manly coach Trent Barrett said. "We played in circumstances where we couldn't win with some of the things went against us."

Manly's clumsy display was countered by a much-needed balanced performance for the Panthers, who kept within touching distance of the top eight with a stable display that could buck their recent instability. 

There was nobody more determined to snap Penrith's two-game losing streak than James Tamou, who took matters into his own hands to draw first blood. The former NSW Origin front-rower barged his way over the try line and just as he appeared to be held up, desperately reached out to ground the ball after four minutes. 

However, all eyes were on the man most thought would not be playing. The Panthers were always going to rue Cherry-Evans being at the foot of the mountains instead of Brisbane and Manly's playmaker hit back eight minutes later with a bullet-pass for Dylan Walker to claw back to 6-4.

While Cherry-Evans constantly threatened, he was too often let down by his teammates' poor discipline. The Sea Eagles conceded nine penalties by half-time, many of them senseless.

They were made to pay for their ill-discipline minutes before the break when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak leaped high to score out wide. When Cleary added the extras, Penrith finished the half with an eight points in front. 

However, it didn't last for long. A quick combination between Cherry-Evans and Shaun Lane gave Tom Trbojevic a chance to reduce the deficit just six minutes after the restart and they could have drawn back to within two points and had Walker's conversion not been denied by the upright. 

Tyrone Peachey thought he'd extended Penrith's lead after racing 80 metres to score an intercept try, only to be brought back after referee Henry Perenara spotted an earlier knock-on. Watene-Zelezniak thought he'd restored a comfortable lead minutes later, only to be denied by the video referee and had it not been for a penalty goal by Cleary, the Panthers would have had a far more precarious lead than their performance deserved. 

Leading by only six points with 14 minutes to go, the Panthers were given a chance to stretch their lead beyond a converted try when Manly conceded another penalty with Darcy Lussick was caught offside, before being marched 10 metres for back chat. They were 38 metres from goal, yet Cleary pointed to the sticks. The young half showed the composure of a veteran in slotting the ball over the black dot to extend Penrith's lead by two points and seal a vital, workmanlike win. 

"Tonight we didn't get a lot of things right at times but the main thing was our attitude and our effort," Penrith coach Anthony Griffin said.

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