Penrith Panthers 12 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2, Josh Mansour tries)
Canberra Raiders 6 (Paul Vaughan try; Jarrod Croker goal)
Remember the name. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. The eighteen year old scored two tries on his debut for Penrith as they edged out Canberra 12-6 at SportingBet Stadium.
After a handling error in the early stages of the match, Watene-Zelezniak gave Panther fans a glimpse of what he’s capable of. He finished off a set move from Peter Wallace to open the scoring after seventeen minutes. ‘DWZ’ sealed victory when he took a cross-field kick from Wallace with eight minutes to play to complete a double on debut.
Terry Campese’s brain explosion near half time which resulted in a scuffle with Lewis Brown gave Penrith the opportunity to score. Josh Mansour was the recipient of a long ball from Jamie Soward to score in the corner. Penrith went into the break eight points ahead in a half dominated by handling errors with persistent torrential rain making the ground waterlogged.
Canberra worked themselves back into the match after the break as the conditions improved. A little bit of Anthony Milford magic with an inside pass to Paul Vaughan gave the visitors hope of securing a second consecutive win on the road after fifty-six minutes. But this was undone with David Shillington dropping the ball from a hit-up near his own line, where Penrith capitalised through Watene-Zelezniak to go out to what would be a match-winning six point lead.
In a frantic last five minutes of play Canberra were unable to break the Panthers goal line defense despite receiving consecutive goal line dropouts. The last play saw the Raiders push the ball out to the right only for the pass to be intercepted by Jamal Idris. Idris foolishly attempted a pass to Mansour that ended up in the hands of Canberra for one last tilt which was to no avail.
The main talking point out of the first half was the injury to Raider’s forward Joel Edwards in trying to tackle Watene-Zelezniak. His head hit the ground heavily and there was immediate concern that Edwards may have suffered a neck injury. Edwards was taken off in a neck brace as a precaution and given the all-clear shortly after by medical staff.
With the adverse weather, the game became an arm wrestle early as the conditions deteriorated with holding onto the ball a premium for both sides. It’s fair to say Penrith had the better of the field position in the first half. With field position, opportunities went begging. One in particular was a Jamie Soward 40/20 where shortly after the ball was turned over. Canberra’s best chance came via Anthony Milford where the video officials ruled ‘no try’ after spilling a kick through from Jack Wighton. Just when it looked like the Raiders were finishing the stronger of the teams in the second half, one handling error swung the game back in Penrith’s favour.
For Penrith, Jamie Soward’s kicking game was instrumental in getting Penrith out of trouble on a number of occasions. Matt Moylan handled the conditions well only by making very few errors at the back. While the forwards couldn’t make inroads, Idris took the pressure off the Panthers with some strong runs along with Mansour. Jeremy Latimore comes in for special mention as one forward who was solid in victory. Canberra were best served by Shaun Fensom who yet again put in a non-stop performance for his team. Dane Tilse got through a lot of work too. Milford was well contained by the Panthers and Campese wasn’t able to put his mark on the match.