The Penrith Panthers have staged two comebacks in consecutive weeks, overcoming a 14-point half time deficit to defeat the Canberra Raiders 40-31 at Panthers Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Panthers got off to the perfect start when James Tamou took advantage of a Viliame Kikau line break in the opening set, stepping through the defensive line to score next to the posts. The Raiders hit straight back off a Joseph Leilua converted try and a penalty goal to take the lead just three minutes later. The Panthers were in again in the 19th minute when Tyrone Peachey finished off a crisp back line movement before the Raiders took control of the first half.
Elliott Whitehead went over in the 26th minute before Aidan Sezer produced a perfect kick for Jordan Rapana who offloaded to Leilua for his second. Rapana finished off the first half perfectly when he pounced on a Kikau error and ran the length of the field for the Raiders to take a 26-12 lead into the break.
The Panthers opened the scoring in the second half when Dean Whare broke the line and crossed under the posts in the 46th minute. The Raiders extended their lead nine minutes later, however, when Leilua scored in the corner to secure his hat-trick. It would be the the Raiders’ last try of the day as the Panthers would go on to score four tries in 21 minutes on their way to an impressive victory.
Peachey reduced the deficit to six points when he got his second try of the day, breaking through some soft Raiders’ defence. Sam Williams kicked a field goal with 14 minutes left but that didn’t halt the Panthers momentum. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak crossed in the corner untouched off a perfect Peachey cut out ball before Josh Mansour gave the Panthers the lead, racing down the sideline to score after a questionable James Maloney pass, and Maloney sealed it with a try of his own in the 77th minute to give the Panthers a 40-31 win.
PANTHERS OFFICIALLY THE COMEBACK KINGS
Just eight days after a stunning 18-point comeback in the dying stages of their match against the Sea Eagles, the Panthers have produced yet another come from behind win to officially claim the award for the NRL’s comeback kings.
The Panthers were behind by 14 points at the half time break, and were still down by 12 points with just over 20 minutes remaining, but never gave up hope. It wasn’t quite as good as their four tries in seven minutes a week ago, but they were able to pile on four tries in the final quarter of the game to finish off another unbelievable comeback. They won’t want to make a habit of giving up early leads but the Panthers have shown they have plenty of resilience to prove they are never out of the game.
RAIDERS GIVE UP ANOTHER LEAD
On the other side of the coin, the Raiders will be filthy they gave up such a big lead lead. After trading early tries, the Raiders took control and were the dominant side in the opening half, but couldn’t continue on in the second to get the win.
That’s been the story of the Raiders’ season as time and again they have failed to close out games. They’ve scored the most points in the competition but struggled to score when it matters most. There’s still four games remaining for the Raiders to fix this major issue as they look ahead to 2019.
PEACHEY ENJOYING FULLBACK ROLE
It was a bold decision for Anthony Griffin to move Tyrone Peachey to fullback, but after just two games it appears to be paying dividends. One costly drop off a Raiders kick was the only blemish in an otherwise impressive display from the Panthers utility.
Peachey finished the day with two tries and a try assist, two line breaks and a line break assist to go with 154 running metres, the most of any Panthers player. There’s no doubt how important Peachey is to the Panthers’ premiership chances, and if he can keep up this kind of form, anything can happen.
DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT STILL NEEDED BY THE PANTHERS
There are a lot of positives to take out of this win, but it also highlighted a number of areas the Panthers need to work on if they want to make a deep finals push. The major concern for this team is their defence. The Raiders are a strong attacking team but the Panthers finished this match allowing six line breaks and missing a whopping 55 tackles.
It will no doubt be a focus for coach Anthony Griffin between now and the end of the regular season, as that kind of effort against a side like the Storm or Roosters would not have ended with the same result. There’s no questioning their ability to score points, but if the Panthers want to be a genuine threat, they need to tighten the screws on their defence.
PENRITH PANTHERS 40
Tries: Tyrone Peachey 2, James Tamou, Dean Whare, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Josh Mansour, James Maloney
Goals: Nathan Cleary 6/7
Drop Goals: n/a
CANBERRA RAIDERS 31
Tries: Joseph Leilua 3, Elliott Whitehead, Jordan Rapana
Goals: Sam Williams 5/6
Drop Goals: Sam Williams 1
Penrith Panthers: 1 Tyrone Peachey, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 Moses Leota, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 James Tamou, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris Interchange: 14 Tyrone May, 15 Trent Merrin, 17 Corey Harawira-Naera, 18 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Canberra Raiders: 1 Nick Cotric, 2 Brad Abbey, 3 Blake Austin, 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Aidan Sezer, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Iosia Soliola, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Junior Paulo, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii Interchange: 14 Dunamis Lui, 15 Shannon Boyd, 16 Siliva Havili, 17 Luke Bateman