The Penrith juggernaut continues to gather pace after claiming its 11th win in a row and stretching its lead at the top of the NSW Cup in defeating Newtown 36-20 at Sporting Bet Stadium but not before a second half comeback from the Jets threatened to put an end to the hottest winning streak in the NSW CUP.
Penrith were boosted with the late inclusion of Isaah Yeo and Kieran Moss while the Jets conversely dealt a blow when new recruit, Nathan Stapleton picked up an injury in playing for the NSW Cup representative team mid-week, with Jonathon Reuben named as his replacement.
The Newtown Jets got off to fast start forcing the Penrith defence on to the back foot with some strong surges early and were rewarded with a try in the 5th minute after a blindside play down the right allowed Sio Suia Taukeiaho to provide a short pass for Samisoni Langi to steam onto and barge over for the try from close range. Taukeiaho couldn’t convert from out wide but Newtown led 4-0.
Penrith hit back almost immediately when Matt Robinson drifted across the halfway line before providing a sublime offload to put Kieran Moss into open space who in turn found Tom Humble backing up to score and with Wes Naiqama’s conversion, take a 6-4 lead.
A chance for the Jets to regain the lead was denied by two superb defensive efforts from the Panthers; Kieran Moss denied a runaway Jonathon Reuben before a few plays later that man Moss combined with Smith with some brilliant goal line defence to deny Langi his second try.
Those defensive efforts soon paid dividends with the Panthers scoring three unanswered tries that saw the lead blow out to 22-4 coming in halftime. Matt Robinson, who was applying considerable pressure on Newtown’s right edge with his numerous offloads up to this point, got the points flowing after putting in a pin point grubber kick to the left corner from 30m out catching the Newtown outside backs unawares and Will Smith was on hand to dive on the ball to score. From the next set, Will Smith exposed Newtown’s right edge defensive frailties once more burst through the line from inside his own half before sending the ball back inside for Luke Capewell to score under the posts. The point scoring spree was soon complete after some kick pressure paid dividends allowing for a backline play from the subsequent scrum win which saw Moss slice through the line to score from close range.
The Panthers suffered a double blow leading into halftime as both Kevin Kingston and Isaah Yeo were forced from the field after being on the wrong end of some knocks to their heads that went strangely unpunished from referee Liam Nicholls. To compound matters, Newtown scored a fortuitous try on the stroke of half time when a long pass from new recruit Scott Dureau ricocheted off Langi’s head and into the unmarked hands of Brett Lane who scored out wide from close range. Taukeiaho’s conversion saw Penrith lead at half time, 22-10.
Despite Kevin Kingston and Isaah Yeo cleared to resume playing in the second half, it was almost a repeat of the first half with the Jets almost scoring their third try only to be denied after Langi lost the ball in attempting to ground the ball over the line. The Panthers soon marched play back deep into Newtown through a Isaah Yeo line break that resulted with Naiqama being tackled 25m out before a few plays later, Tom Humble was able to extend the Panthers lead to 26-10 after putting on a show and go from close range.
The Jets intensity lifted and on the back of a precision kicking game from Dureau, combined with some curious decisions from Nicholls allowed the Jets to eventually convert possession into points when a quick spread right allowed Dureau to provide Lane enough space to score his second try in the right corner from close range to narrow the gap to 12 points midway through the second half.
Possession continued to flow Newtown’s way and with 9 minutes that possession was converted into points once again after Dureau deciding to run it on the last, bursting through the defensive line from 30m out before providing a peach of a pass onto hooker, Kurt Kara to score underneath the posts and set up an unlikely but exciting finish yet again.
However the Jets hopes were soon dashed when Penrith were able to score two late tries – the first to Eto Nabuli after a poor pass was regathered by the Fijian Flyer to sprint some 30m down the left touchline to score in the corner, with the second scored in the 79th minute when Humble broke through the line from 30m and outsprinted the Jets cover defence to complete a much deserved hat-trick. Will Smith’s conversion from near the right touch line sealed Penrith’s 11th win in a row, 36-20.
These two teams now turn their attention to next Saturday when they meet again in as many weeks when they play at Allianz Stadium at the earlier kick-off time of 12:45pm.
Penrith Panthers 36 (Tom Humble 3, Will Smith, Luke Capewell, Kieran Moss, Eto Nabuli tries; Wes Naiqama 3 goals Will Smith 1 goal) d. Newtown 20 (Brett Lane 2, Samisoni Langi, Kurt Kara tries; Sio Suia Taukeiaho 2 goals) at Sportingbet Stadium. Referee: Liam Nicholls. Touch Judges: Jay Farlow, John Woods. Penalties: Newtown 6-1. Half-time: Penrith 22-10. Goal-kickers: Wes Naiqama (Penrith) 3 from 6 Will Smith (Penrith) 1 from 1, Sio Suia Taukeiaho (Newtown) 2 from 4.