Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans
Daly Cherry-Evans greets fans after starring in his record-breaking 310th match for the Sea Eagles. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Cherry-Evans stuns Penrith to celebrate record night

Scott Bailey April 6, 2024

Daly Cherry-Evans has released the shackles to celebrate his record-breaking day at Manly in style, inspiring the Sea Eagles to a shock 32-18 win over Penrith.

On the day he surpassed Cliff Lyons as Manly’s most-capped player, Cherry-Evans was the game’s most crucial player in the club’s first win over Penrith since 2018.

The 35-year-old put on a crucial three-minute period in the second half when he scored a try and set up another, to take Manly for 14-12 up to 26-12 leaders.

The game was not without controversy, with Manly centre Tolutau Koula awarded a 90-metre runaway try before halftime when Penrith thought Tommy Talau had knocked on.

But while Penrith coach Ivan Cleary was certain the ball went forward, even he conceded it mattered little given the way his side played on Saturday night.

“It was one of about five or six intercepts we threw,” he said.

“We played poorly, in many different ways.”

With Nathan Cleary out and Jarome Luai nursing a knee issue that eventually saw him rested, the Panthers turned in one of their worst performances in years.

In comparison, Manly were brilliant to make both sides 3-2 to start the year.

Looking nothing like the side beaten by St George Illawarra last week, Tom Trbojevic returned to form for Manly with a try and assist.

Tom Trbojevic.
 Tom Trbojevic touches down for Manly’s opening try against the Panthers. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS 

Nathan Brown had his best game in maroon and white, with his and Toff Sipley’s impact off the bench match-turning.

Taniela Paseka was just as damaging in the second half, putting on a bust in the lead-up to another try.

And Cherry-Evans was in everything.

With the game in the balance at 14-12 and with 26 minutes to play, he ran the ball on the last, found Trbojevic on his inside and then loomed up beside him to score.

The No.7 was in it again moments later when he set up for a bomb, chip-kicked instead and Corey Waddell pounced when Izack Tago spilled the ball.

Suddenly Manly led 26-12, and everything the 310-game man touched was turning to gold.

Daly Cherry-Evans.
 Daly Cherry-Evans scores for Manly in their impressive win over Penrith. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS 

He slotted six-from-six with the boot after Reuben Garrick was concussed, forced three dropouts, had an intercept, pulled off a try-saving tackle and even called two successful captain’s challenges.

And as Penrith threatened a late comeback, it was the 35-year-old who dashed back to get to a Daine Laurie grubber-kick first and knock the ball dead.

Cherry-Evans is always at his best when playing with freedom. And after admitting he failed to do so in the opening month of the season, he was full of creative play on Saturday.

“I think the first four weeks of my season have just been OK,” Cherry-Evans said.

“A lot of my focus has been on trying to help the side, and I think the best thing I can do as a leader and a halfback is play footy, and direct the team around.

“Because I have so much respect for the boys, I just really wanted everyone to fit in – (Luke) Brooks and Tom back – so that was a lot of my focus to be honest.

“But tonight, I just felt like it was the night where I just needed to play footy. It just goes to show you just do your job, good things happen.”

There was a time when Cherry-Evans was one of the most maligned players in the NRL after his 2015 backflip on Gold Coast.

Now it appears that if 4 Pines Park is ever upgraded, one of the new stands would likely be named in the halfback’s honour.