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NRL MATCH REVIEW: PENRITH PANTHERS 18 ST GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 14

Penrith Panthers made it five straight wins but it wasn’t all their way in defeating St George-Illawarra Dragons 18-14 at SportingBet Stadium.

Jason Nightingale’s try with ninety seconds to go put the home supporters on edge, but the Panthers managed to survive one last attacking play from the Dragons to post victory and return to top spot on the National Rugby League ladder.

Penrith went into the break 12-4 up after Dean Whare posted a first half double.  The first after six minutes was a result of a penalty awarded to Peter Wallace who was taken out after kicking down field.  It was slick play to the right where Penrith created the overlap that allowed the Kiwi International to cross.  Kevin Naiqama’s tap back for Whare’s second was checked by the video officials before being awarded a try at the twenty-three minute mark.  Soward’s kick hit the upright and bounced in to put the Panthers up by twelve.

The Dragons went close when Benji Marshall kicked behind Josh Mansour’s wing only for Nightingale to force the ball on the dead ball line.  Back to back errors from Penrith proved too much five minutes before the break with the Dragons scoring out wide through Charlie Runciman on the overlap.  It was their second attempt in a matter of plays the Dragons tried to expose Penrith’s right hand defense, with Naiqama failing with an intercept leading up to the try.  The Dragons didn’t take advantage of good field position presented to them in the first forty and went into the sheds eight points in arrears.

St George-Illawarra got a dream start to the second half with rookie centre Isaah Yeo losing possession near his own line.  Adam Quinlan provided a neat inside ball for Nightingale to bring the Dragons within two points of the lead.  Just when you thought that nothing was happening for Penrith they struck at fifty-four minutes.  The play that started around half way with Bryce Cartwright offloading to a running Soward.  Soward got the ball onto Yeo, then returned the ball to Soward who then found a flying Mansour to cross in the corner.  This play proved to be the match winner in a tight contest.  The game threatened to open right up for Penrith with Mansour breaking clear soon after, only for James Segeyaro to spill the inside pass.

In an attempt to play catch-up footy the Dragons made unforced errors with Benji Marshall the main contributor on a night the former Wests Tigers player would rather forget.  Nightingale’s try in the final stages of the game gave the Dragons an outside hope that they could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Five consecutive victories hasn’t been achieved by the Penrith Panthers since 2005 when coach John Lang steered his side to wins between July 30 and September 4 that year.  The next step for this Panthers side is to win six straight and the record books will take you back to a famous year where the club recorded their second premiership.

While Dean Whare will get the accolades for scoring a double, Sika Manu was outstanding on the night and Elijah Taylor was solid.  Jamie Soward’s intent was clear and played a good game against his former club.  The Dragons were inspired by Mitch Rein’s game out of dummy half.  Englishmen Mike Cooper and Gareth Widdop tried hard in a losing side.

JAMIE SOWARD DELIVERED

Over the years I have seen players struggle to play as well as their abilities against their former club.  Jamie Soward was on a mission.  A lot has been said about the way he left the Dragons dramatically at around this time last year.  Soward’s involvement in this game was no more or less to what Penrith fans have come accustomed to.  And the fact he kicked three from three and had a hand in the Mansour try goes a long way to saying how important Soward’s personal game affected the final result.  Well done Sowie!

‘OFF COLOUR’ PANTHERS

We were treated to a wonderful victory against Parramatta at our last home game.  It was almost as if Penrith ‘peaked’ with a stunning result.  Penrith’s win against the Dragons was almost completely the opposite, scrappy and ugly.  Let’s factor in some slippery conditions in analysis of the performance.  The ball handling was sloppy, and there’s work still to be done on securing the ball tighter when running with it.  Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour need to work on carrying the ball closer to their body and not giving the opposition a play at the ball.  The defense was solid, but at times the structure appeared weaker than what we’ve seen this year.  It was probably a good thing the Marshall-Widdop combination isn’t set, otherwise it could have been a bad result for the Panthers.  Kudos to the boys for winning five straight and here’s hoping they freshen up leading into the big New Zealand Warriors game in a fortnight’s time.

CLEAN SWEEP COMPLETED

Penrith’s NRL victory completed a very good afternoon for the club in winning all three grades.  The Under 20’s were too good for St George-Illawarra 26-6 and Penrith went on to win the VB NSW Cup 28-22.

We know that Penrith in the NRL are on a five game winning streak.  The Under 20’s side have now won three straight.  But it’s our VB NSW Cup side that’s now recorded seven wins on the trot, and having won eleven of their last twelve.  Amazing record for the club and full credit to the players, coaching staff and management at the club.  Great signs the club culture has shifted in the right direction.

MAN OF THE MATCH

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