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NRL MATCH REVIEW: PENRITH PANTHERS 26 CANBERRA RAIDERS 20

Penrith have recorded back-to-back victories as they fought off a hard-finishing Canberra 26-20 at GIO Stadium this afternoon.

Heading into the sheds behind 16-14, the Panthers scored two tries within the first twelve minutes of play to establish a twelve point lead.  Their request for win number six of the season was temporarily put on hold with Anthony Milford’s four pointer inside the final ten minutes.  Despite finishing the stronger, Canberra couldn’t convert in the final minutes with two-try hero David Simmons plucking the ball out of the air from an attacking kick which saved the day.

The game wasn’t without it’s controversy.  After Simmons’ second try at the fifty-first minute mark a scuffle broke out where Terry Campese and Tim Grant were involved in a heated exchange.  Campese complaining to the officials that Grant headbutted the Raiders captain.  Replays are inconclusive but it’s unlikely.  This was a turning point in the game as it appeared the referee’s lacked control and allowed players to dictate terms.  James Segeyaro was placed on report for a forearm to the head of David Shillington under the Panthers posts in the period following the original incident.  It seemed soft at the time with Shillington’s reaction appearing over the top.

It was a strange kind of afternoon.  Penrith easily giving up the first try within the first set after Jack Wighton brushed aside Jamie Soward, with Josh Papalii finding a flying Reece Robinson who finished the move.  Penrith hit back almost immediately and dominated with three tries in the next twenty minutes.  Simmons’ first set up by quick hands by Peter Wallace and Dean Whare as they exposed Canberra’s left hand defense.  Matt Moylan was put clear by Josh Mansour after a Raiders error and the Panthers made them pay.  Mansour unmarked to score following a clever Wallace cross-field kick.  Four minutes later following video review Matt Moylan’s try was cleared after running on the angle to a sharp inside pass from Soward.

At 14-6 the Raiders looked in trouble but fought back well to go into the sheds unlikely leaders in an evenly contested half.  Soward’s kick out on the full presented Canberra with a chance to get back into the game through Robinson’s second try.  Back to back penalties cost Penrith soon after when Jarrod Croker scored to put the Raiders ahead.  Croker hampered by a leg injury missed a conversion he normally would be expected to put over.

Penrith’s second half got off on the right foot with Segeyaro making a clean line bust into the Raiders half.  A dummy half run from close range from the hooker gave the Panthers back the lead.  This seemed to get Jamal Idris fired up and he unleashed for one of the few times during the game with a powerful run.  Simmons’ second was set up with some good play by Moylan and Whare soon after.

At that point, the game shifted and the Panthers may have gone into defend mode as they struggled to create chances with the Raiders endlessly launching attack after attack.  To Penrith’s credit, they only cracked once which is a great sign that the club is getting the right mental attitude and focus out of the players.

Canberra for their part in defeat took a step forward.  Campese, Papalii and Fensom were good in patches.  Jack Wighton looked more at home in the centres after Ricky Stuart set him up for failure at five-eighth.  Jarrad Kennedy demonstrated that he’s going to be a star in years to come with some great runs.  Anthony Milford came into his own at the back end of the game as the Raiders looked to take the game into golden point.

At the end of the day it was Penrith’s experience which got them an all important two points, which converts to four going into the first bye week.  Soward might have kicked out on the full and been dragged over the line by Milford in the final ten minutes, but did the little things right towards the end of the game that got Penrith home.  His combination with Wallace is work in progress but the signs are good.  For all the concerns of Panther fans about Segeyaro starting, he was responsible for breaking the game open just after half time which resulted in points.  A handy game from the number nine.  Simmons two tries and diffusing a couple of good towering kicks makes him the unsung hero.  His second try equals the player with the most number of tries against the Raiders in history.  Matt Robinson’s late first half concussion rule interchange before the break didn’t cost the Panthers as he returned for the second half.

PENRITH PANTHERS 26 (David Simmons 2, Josh Mansour, Matt Moylan, James Segeyaro tries; Jamie Soward 3 goals) defeated CANBERRA RAIDERS 20 (Reece Robinson 2, Jarrod Croker, Anthony Milford tries; Jarrod Croker 2 goals)

THE CYCLE BROKEN

In the final moments Panther fans had their heart firmly gripped in their mouth as the boys held onto a six point lead.  But the boys held on to win.  This is a very good sign that we’re able to hang in there, stoutly defend our line and most importantly play under intense pressure and fatigue.  Learning how to win the tight games will help Penrith in future games and could be the difference between a top eight finish or a top four finish in a congested ladder.  A second away win, combined with four home wins and this side is going in the right direction.  Well done to Cleary and all seventeen involved in victory.

CANBERRA HAVE THE RIGHT TO DICTATE?

How did the referee’s lose control of the game?  You would expect in an Origin atmosphere in front of a full-house with so much intensity that the referee’s would be under pressure to keep a lid on proceedings.  Yet today in front of just over 8,000 fans at GIO Stadium in Canberra somehow Gavin Badger as the senior referee couldn’t control the game.  Intimidated by Terry Campese, the chorus of Raiders players blowing up about Penrith infringing threatened to hand the game to the home side.  The 7-5 penalty count to the Raiders doesn’t quite paint that picture, but it was the decisions made at critical times that made the difference.  Also Dan Eastwood’s shocked in calling a ball out off Penrith was embarrassing and ensured the boys had to defend another set on their line.  Terry Campese continues to be enemy number one for opposing teams and his approach to referees during the game in general questionable.

HANDY WIN COUNTS FOR FOUR

I remember ex-coach John Lang said something along the lines that the first two points of the season counted for four because you got off the mark.  Well it wasn’t quite that situation this week, but the two points on top of next week’s mandatory two for the bye could be pivotal in the Panthers season.  Penrith can’t be dislodged from third place even though one game remains of round ten.  The next month after the bye week will see Penrith face Parramatta (H), Titans (A) and Dragons (H) before the next bye in round fifteen.  If Penrith could manage to win two, if not three of these games, they could be sitting on eight to nine wins and on either twenty or twenty-two points entering round sixteen.  It could be the Panthers efforts to beat the Dogs and Titans in particular earlier this season that gets Penrith into a position to play finals footy.

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