In a top of the table showdown, the Penrith Panthers have crushed St. George Illawarra Dragons 28-2 at Panthers Stadium.
A fast and intense beginning to the match between two massive forward packs ripped into one another for no points in the opening quarter. Repeat sets accumulated on the Dragons line by kicks from the Panthers which had them go into the break 8-0. Another damaging run through the middle from Penrith found their second try end in the corner with two following before fulltime, giving the home side a convincing 28-2 win against St. George.
From the kick-off, the Panthers were out to play a tough brand of footy which they have built over the season even through injuries to the team. All the forwards of the Penrith side were showing phenomenal line speed both on and off the ball while getting offloads away so that the backs were able to tear down the edges of the Dragons. It was a near-perfect performance with up to 6 clean linebreaks which created a lot of trouble for the St. George team who tried to pull back the home sides incredible enthusiasm and constant aggression.
CLEARY AND MALONEY STAR
Spearheaded by their forward’s incredible defence and post contact in the attack, the two halves of the Panthers in Nathan Cleary and James Maloney put on a clinical display to shut down a 1st place Dragons outfit. Their combination though only just blossoming since the return of Cleary from injury has seen two weeks of complete performances catapulting the pair into the frame as the Blues halves for 2018. They both made a joint 26 runs at the line which helped set up many of the points while the kicking in play was superb having Maloney hit 6/6 conversions and Nathan making 330 kick metres keeping the opposition try-less.
Origin INJURY CONCERNS
In such a big match hosting up to 12 possible Origin players spread on both sides it was three Dragons players that came from the field at different stages. A quad injury from a few rounds ago has riddled the red v’s halfback Ben Hunt who against Penrith conceded to not playing the rest of the match in the 46th minute coming off. Second rower Tariq Sims also retreated to the sideline with a leg injury and Lock forward Jack De Belin hobbled off in the 73rd minute with a hip injury he has been fighting with over the season.
PENRITH JOIN ST. GEORGE
The competition heavyweights St. George Illawarra have finally been chased down to now be on equal points with their round 12 opponents the Panthers. The Dragons after starting the opening rounds 8-1 have now fallen to their joint ladder leaders in Penrith, this is their 2nd loss in the past 3 rounds and will now have the rest of the competition wondering if they peaked too early. Panthers in 1st place now are genuine competition favourites in what is a remarkable feat with the number of player injuries throughout the squad.
Tries: Cleary, Crichton, Kikau, Campbell-Gillard
Goals: Maloney 6/6
Goals: Widdop 1/1
Panthers: 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Christian Crichton, 3 Tyrone Peachey, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Tyrone Phillips, 6 James Maloney (c), 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 Trent Merrin, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Reagan 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
Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack De Belin
Interchange: 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Blake Lawrie