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#VBNSW Cup Review – Penrith Panthers 28 Illawarra Cutters 22

Penrith held off a fast-finishing Cutters outfit down on experience but not in spirit to record win number 7 in a row & 11 from their last 12 games to maintain top spot in front of Wentworthville on for & against with a 28-22 win at Sportingbet Stadium today. Coach Garth Brennan won’t be happy with his team’s lack of respect for possession as well as the continued flow of penalties awarded against his team.

Penrith made just the one late change with Tom Eisenhuth called in to replace Kevin Naiqama on the wing, while the Cutters were dealt a blow with Geoff Daniela a late withdrawal, but were given a boost with the inclusion of hooker Craig Garvey & Fijian international back-rower Peni Botiki.

An error in the first set of the game from Kevin Kingston allowed the Cutters an early opportunity but in their first set & deep on the attack, a lost ball from the Cutters was swooped upon by Tom Humble who ran some 60m downfield before finding Waqa Blake on his outside to score out wide. Wes Naiqama nailing the conversion to give the Panthers a dream start 6-0.

The Panthers however continued to make mistakes & invited the Cutters to hit straight back in the 6th minute when a wayward Sam Duggan chip kick deflected off Tim Grant & back into the arms of the five-eighth to stroll over from close range to level the scores with the successful conversion.

The Panthers could have regained the lead soon after in the 8th minute but a Kieran Moss try was disallowed as the referee deemed the Cutters defence was obstructed. The Cutters had their chance to snatch the lead in the 13th minute but Moss denied Garvey a try after the hooker took off from dummy half close to the line only to lose the ball in a one on one tackle by the Panthers fullback.

Penrith were able to regain the lead in the 20th minute after a period of sustained pressure in possession inside the Cutters 20m zone saw Humble wrap around Sam Anderson before linking with Moss who found Blake who was able to reach out & score out wide.

Penrith went further ahead on when Tom Humble one off the ruck, took the line on & was able to score from 15m out, carrying with him 3 defenders in the process. Wes Naiqama’s conversion extended the lead to 16-6.

The game developed into an arm wrestle with neither side able to control possession & the score remained 16-6 at half-time, with Penrith dealt a blow just before half-time when interchange prop, Shaun Spence was concussed & ruled out of the game.

The Panthers as was the case in the first half were quick out of the blocks to score first in the second half. An outside / inside play between Kingston & Humble on half-way put Will Smith into the clear before finding the hooker backing up who in turn found Moss on his outside to score underneath the posts. The conversion from Naiqama pushed the lead out to 22-6, the biggest of the game to date.

The Cutters to their credit refused to go away & were rewarded for persistence in the 55th minute when a cross-field kick couldn’t be handled by Tom Eisenhuth on the left touchline & centre Junior Tia Kilifi scooped up the loose ball to dove over in the left corner. Duggan missed the conversion to leave the Cutters trailing 22-10.

The Cutters were brought right back into the game when prop Rory O’Brien steamed onto a reverse inside pass from Kyle Eather to break thru the line from 10m out to score underneath the posts to trail by just 6 points with 19 minutes remaining.

The Panthers responded to the Cutters resurgence by coming up with a brilliant third try to Blake after Ben Murdoch-Masila bent the Cutters defensive line from inside his own half before providing a brilliant flick pass to his centre to go on a scorching 50m run leaving Cutters fullback Jason Raper in his wake to score to the right of the posts & with Naiqama’s conversion the Panthers led 28-16.

The Cutters refused to go away & Shannon Wakeman as he did two weeks earlier, stormed over the line beating two defenders in the process to score to the right of the posts from close range & with the Duggan conversion, the Cutters only trailed by 6 once more to set up an exciting final 8 minutes.

Penrith were able to repel the Cutters for the remainder of the game however to escape with another narrow victory to remain NSW Cup leaders. Next Sunday, the Panthers commence a three game road trip that starts with a game against North Sydney Bears at the picturesque North Sydney Oval. The Cutters head to Aubrey Keech Reserve next Saturday to take on Mounties.

Penrith Panthers 28 (Tries: W Blake 3, T Humble, K Moss Goals: W Naiqama 4/5) def. Illawarra Cutters 22 (Tries: S Duggan, J Tia-Kilifi, R O’Brien, S Wakeman Goals: S Duggan 3/4) at Sportingbet Stadium.

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