The Penrith Panthers defeated the Wests Tigers 16-2 in a penalty-riddled contest at Panthers Stadium on Thursday night.
The Tigers had all the ball early but could only muster a single penalty goal in the 7th minute. The Panthers then levelled the score through a James Maloney penalty goal in the 18th minute. The Panthers had to deal with an 8-2 penalty count against them, and Trent Merrin was sent to the sin bin midway through the first half. It didn’t deter them as Nathan Cleary put through a perfect grubber for Tyrone Peachey to score in the 23rd minute. Just 10 minutes later, Tyrone Phillips scored in the corner from a perfect Maloney cutout ball and the Panthers went into the break with a 12-2 lead.
It was a slow second half, with only two penalty goals from the Panthers being added to the score. It could have been much worse for the Tigers, with the Panthers dominating possession and field position, as well as Alex Twal being sin binned. The Panthers were denied three tries by the bunker and came close a number of times but could never get across the line. They did enough in the first half, though, to get a 16-2 win and go equal first on the ladder.
CLEARY ENJOYS A SUCCESSFUL COMEBACK
It’s safe to say all eyes would have been on Nathan Cleary in his return from a knee injury on Thursday night, and he delivered with a strong performance. He produced a good kicking game all night, highlighted by a deft grubber for Peachey’s try, and made a few half breaks throughout the match, always creating opportunities for his team.
He was also really solid in defence, which will please coach Anthony Griffin and perhaps even New South Wales coach Brad Fittler. Even Tigers coach Ivan Cleary admitted he had a strong game, always looking threatening with the ball in his hands.
TIGERS NEVER ABLE TO FIND THEIR GROOVE
After a strong start to the year, the Tigers have now lost four of their last five games. They never looked in the match after the first 10 minutes in the loss to the Panthers. They had a lot of ball early, but weren’t able to capitalise on consecutive penalties awarded to them on the Panthers line. Even when Trent Merrin was sent to the bin, the Tigers weren’t able to score and even conceded a try against the shorthanded Panthers.
It didn’t get any better in the second half, as they were starved of ball and field position, with the end scoreline probably making it seem closer than it was. Ivan Cleary will have a lot to work on before their match against the Bulldogs next week.
PENALTIES CREATE A STOP-START AFFAIR
A lot of talk this season has been surrounding the amount of penalties that are being blown, and while they aren’t as frequent as they were at the start of the season, it’s clear the referees aren’t going to be backing down. There were 22 penalties in the match, not allowing either side to find any rhythm for extended periods.
Both teams played a man down at different points in the match due to repeated infringements. The amount of penalties don’t create the most exciting games to watch, but it’s clear they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
DWZ MAKES HIMSELF AT HOME AT FULLBACK
When Dylan Edwards was ruled out for the season, there were question marks over whether the Panthers would be able to fill the big hole he left. Those questions have are now gone after Dallin Watene-Zelezniak put on a stellar performance in the win. He was a rock at the back defusing every kick that came his way and constantly getting his team on the front foot.
Watene-Zelezniak ran for an amazing 268 metres, including one line break and two tackle breaks. Edwards will be missed for the rest of the season, but if Watene-Zelezniak can keep up this kind of form, then they will be right in the hunt for a premiership.
PENRITH PANTHERS 16
Tries: Tyrone Peachey, Tyrone Phillips
Goals: James Maloney 4/5
Drop Goals: n/a
WESTS TIGERS 2
Goals: Esan Marsters 1/1
Drop Goals: n/a
Penrith Panthers: 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Christian Crichton, 3 Tyrone Peachey, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Tyrone Phillips, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 Trent Merrin, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Reagen Campbell-Gillard, 11 Corey Harawira-Naera, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Jack Hetherington, 16 Viliame Kikau, 17 James Tamou
Wests Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Michael Chee-Kam, 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6 Benji Marshall, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Elijah Taylor, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 13 Matthew Eisenhuth Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Jacob Liddle, 16 Sauaso Sue, 17 Chris McQueen