Olakau’atu injury concern as Panthers down Manly

George Clarke |

Penrith’s Brian To’o scored a hat-trick of tries as the Panthers beat the Sea Eagles 32-22.
Penrith’s Brian To’o scored a hat-trick of tries as the Panthers beat the Sea Eagles 32-22.

Manly are downplaying concerns over the fitness of NSW State of Origin forward Haumole Olakau’atu after he limped out of the Sea Eagles’ 32-22 loss to Penrith.

Olakau’atu, who made his NSW debut in the opening game of the series, trudged off in the 23rd minute in front of 20,101 spectators at BlueBet Stadium on Sunday with calf soreness.

The Tongan international failed to return in the second half as the game slipped away from Manly, but Sea Eagles coach Anthony Seibold is confident Olakau’atu’s complaint is of no serious concern.

Blues coach Michael Maguire will name his squad for Origin II next Sunday, when Seibold anticipates Olakau’atu will get a run-out against St George Illawarra.

Haumole Olakau'atu (centre).
Haumole Olakau’atu (centre), who debuted for the Blues in Origin I, is under an injury cloud. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“I’m told it’s minor, but the risk was that if we keep him out there that he does it properly,” Seibold said. 

“Of course we would have loved to have him, but if we keep him out there and he does his calf … we tried to be conservative with it – the medical staff tell me he’s OK.”

A fresh injury concern for Maguire would have been offset by welcomed news from the Penrith sheds.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary is increasingly upbeat about the fitness of fullback Dylan Edwards, who missed Origin I with a quad issue, and Blues back-rower Liam Martin (toe) ahead of next weekend’s trip to Newcastle. 

“I’m pretty confident with ‘Dyl’, he should be fine (to play the Knights),” Cleary said.

“We’re hoping ‘Marto’ too, his isn’t a long-term injury, and even if he can’t make it next week I’m sure he’ll be right for Origin.” 

The loss of Olakau’atu knocked Manly out of sync after they were threatening to cause an upset early on. 

The defeat means the Sea Eagles have slumped to 10th on the NRL ladder with a fourth loss in five games.

A first-half hat-trick from Tommy Talau, who added a fourth try in the second half, gave the Sea Eagles a runaway start, before Brian To’o single-handedly brought the Panthers back into the game. 

Tommy Talau.
Tommy Talau scored four tries, but the Sea Eagles couldn’t hold off Penrith. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

To’o helped turn the tide, the workaholic winger bagging a first-half hat-trick and churning out 213m and 14 tackle busts four days after an 80-minute showing for NSW.

“He’s unbelievable, I thought all three Origin boys were excellent tonight,” said Cleary, whose side hold on to third spot on the ladder.

“I feel we talk about it all the time with ‘Bizza’, he’s just incredible.” 

Leading 16-12 at halftime, the Panthers began to pull away, Sunia Turuva notching a try-scoring double, while dogged prop Liam Henry also crashed in.

Jason Saab and Talau’s fourth try helped close the gap, but Manly were let down by an uncharacteristic off day with the boot from centre Reuben Garrick, who scored just one of five conversion attempts. 

“Six tries to five? They’re three-time premiers for a reason,” Seibold said.

“They suffocated us … but to score five tries, we played some really good footy. We just weren’t accurate enough on the other side of the footy.”