A depleted Penrith Panthers outfit once again made a statement to the rest of the competition easily disposing of a very disappointing Wentworthville Magpies side who were playing to secure 2nd spot with a crushing 44-12 win at Sportingbet Stadium. In doing so, the twenty wins, four loss record including just two losses in the last twenty-two rounds of the competition allowed the Panthers to eclipse Cronulla’s season record from last season and have emerged with a points scoring record scoring 754 in the process. The win was Penrith’s fifth in a row and along with Newcastle who have won their last seven in a row, head into the finals series as the team to beat.
The Panthers were dealt a late blow with the withdrawal of Sam Anderson who was promoted to the NRL squad to cover for Jeremy Latimore who was suspended mid-week for a crusher tackle while Tom Eisenhuth (shoulder) was replaced by Sakeo Dibeci making his 1st appearance since Round 1 to complete an all Fijian three-quarter backline also featuring the Naiqama brothers and Eto Nabuli. In somewhat of a surprise move Penrith opted to take three hookers into the game with Daniel Foster, Liam Ayoub and Josh Tangitau.
The Panthers opened proceedings in their first set of the match, when Justin Hunt allowed a Tom Humble bomb to bounce allowing Vaipuna Tia Kilifi to regain possession before putting Nabuli on a bumping run to score his 16th try of the season out wide from 15m out and with Wes Naiqama’s unsuccessful conversion attempt, the Panthers led early 4-0.
The Magpies hit back in the 10th minute through Lionel O’Malley who scooped up a loose pass form dummy half to still catch the Panthers defence napping close to the line and barged his way over the line next to the posts and with Luke Kelly’s conversion, the Magpies led 6-4.
Coach Garth Brennan will have some concerns this week when Tom Humble was placed on report for a shoulder charge with the halfback still having some carry over points from a high tackle charge picked up from the Jets game recently.
Nonetheless it didn’t take long for the Panthers to regain the lead when Kieran Moss drifted across field before putting Leilani Latu thru the line with a short pass on the 40m line before up the prop to score under the posts and give Penrith a 10-6 lead. Penrith scored again in the 17th minute when a long range run down the left touchline by Nabuli after some good leadup work from Tia Kilifi was backed up inside by Moss before passing on to Kevin Naiqama to score his 15th try of the season to push the lead out to 16-6.
Moss had his second try of the day after the Panthers from a scrum win 25m out form their own line again attacked down the Magpies right edge through Kevin Naiqama and Nabuli before the fullback backed up inside to score behind the posts to give Penrith a decent 22-6 lead, which they took with them to half time.
Penrith, despite the absence of Kevin Naiqama in the second half with a knee injury, continued the point-scoring spree in the 2nd half as they scored another unanswered 22 points in the opening 22 minutes to put the game firmly away from Wentworthville’s grasps. The first try in the 48th minute was the result of some quick thinking from Tom Humble who having taken a kick on the full in-goal and sprinted back to the 20m to take the quick-tap and left the Wentworthville defensive line in tatters as he streaked 80m upfield to score under the posts.
A few minutes later Kieran Moss found more open spaces from halfway before passing it on to Liam Ayoub who diagonally ran the last 30m to score in the left corner, duly converted by Wes Naiqama from the sideline. Then in the 57th minute, a simple catch and pass movement from a scrum win 20m out from the Magpies try line resulted in the Ron Massey Cup’s leading try scorer, Sakeo Dibeci to sprint the final 10m to score his maiden NSW Cup try in the right corner.
To top of a successful afternoon for the Panthers, they came up with the try of the game as Tom Humble burst thru the line from halfway before executing a precision kick to the right that evaded Dibeci but allowed Wes Naiqama to swoop on and evade two Wentworthville defenders with some blistering pace to score in the corner in what was his final appearance game at Sportingbet Stadium. Naiqama again converting from the sidelines to give the Panthers that 44-6 lead.
The Magpies to their credit came up with the final try of the afternoon with less than three minutes remaining, when they shifted the ball across the field before Val Toutai offloaded to his winger, Cecil Mckenzie to score in the corner. Kelly’s conversion from the sideline providing the final scoreline of 44-12.
The Panthers now head to the finals series next Sunday where they will take on 4th placed Illawarra Cutters who will be well rested having had the bye. The fixture set to kick-off at 12pm is the first of a three game triple header at Leichhardt Oval.
Penrith 44 (Tries: K Moss 2, E Nabuli, K Naiqama, T Humble, L Ayoub, S Dibeci, W Naiqama Goals: W Naiqama 6/8 goals) def. Wentworthville 12 (Tries: L O’Malley, C McKenzie Goals: L Kelly 2/2) at Sportingbet Stadium.