A James Maloney field goal saw Penrith win a nailbiter over the Bunnies 19-18 at ANZ Stadium.
The Burgess-less South Sydney Rabbitohs looked to get back on the winners board against the Penrith Panthers at ANZ Stadium.
Dane Gagai looked to open the scoring after Tevita Tatola’s barnstorming run earned his side a penalty, though he hit the post from 25 metres directly in front.
Ten minutes later Penrith winger Brian To’o broke the line and referee Adam Gee penalised Alex Johnston for lying in the ruck. Captain James Tamou elected to have a shot on goal, which Nathan Cleary successfully converted.
A mistake from Liam Martin early in the tackle count saw the Rabbitohs go on the attack. Cleary fumbled a grubber from Damien Cook in goal, which saw Cameron Murray jump on the loose ball to score the first try of the game.
A stop-start game developed as both sides made mistake after mistake, which would have frustrated both coaches.
Under pressure Blues halfback Cleary had a solid first half as he forced two drop outs and looked dangerous in attacking positions.
His second forced drop out saw the Rabbitohs defence break as Villiame Kikau crashed over after a gaping hole appeared between Adam Doueihi and James Roberts. Cleary converted to make the score 8-6 in favour of the visitors with 10 minutes to play in the first half.
That’s the way the score stayed as the Panthers took a two-point lead into the sheds.
Like last week against Newcastle, Souths came out in the second half sluggish, which saw them fall further behind after a pinpoint cross field kick by Clearly found Brent Naden who brilliantly caught it and then scored. Cleary kept his 100% conversion record intact to push the Panthers’ lead out to eight.
A few minutes later, Campbell Graham had his try disallowed after the video referee believed Kyle Turner obstructed the Penrith defender. The Souths faithful’s reaction told you all you needed to know.
The restless home crowd didn’t have to wait much longer for Souths’ second try after front rower Liam Knight crashed over underneath the posts to narrow the gap to two points.
The very next set the crowd were up on their feet again as new recruit Roberts showed everyone his unbelievable speed to get on the outside of Josh Mansour. As Roberts was nearing Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards, Gagai was supporting on the inside and collected the offload from Roberts to sprint 50 metres to score untouched.
Gagai’s try and conversion saw the Bunnies lead 18-14 with 20 minutes to play.
Both teams traded punches for the next 10 minutes as mistakes from both sides stopped their chances from scoring again.
After a few sets attacking the Rabbitohs line, the visitors went over through young winger Brian To’o, who raced away from Cody Walker. Cleary missed the kick from five metres in from the sideline to leave the scores level with not long to go.
James Maloney calmly slotted the one pointer to put his team in front after Walker missed from 15 metres out minutes before.
A mistake from Cameron Murray in the 78th minute all but sealed the victory for the Panthers as they won their fourth straight game.
Souths’ Mistakes Cost them Dearly
Coach Wayne Bennett wouldn’t be happy with his players’ performance, especially in the last 20 minutes. Seven penalties conceded and 15 handling errors ultimately saw the Bunnies lose their third straight game. Next week doesn’t get any easier as they face the Tigers, fresh off their win over the Cowboys in Townsville on Friday night.
You Can’t Replace Adam Reynolds
Souths halfback Adam Reynolds missed his second game in a row with a fractured back. Walker and Doueihi were paired in the halves – the likely combination for the next few weeks – though they didn’t click. Reynolds’ kicking game and direction is being sorely missed; the sooner they get him back the better.
Cleary good to go for Origin Two
Tonight’s performance should have shown NSW coach Brad Fittler that Cleary should be in the side named tomorrow. It was a superb performance from the young halfback, with one try assist, two tackle breaks, two drop outs and 340 kick metres.
Not their Best Win, but a Win is a Win
After Gagai sprinted away to put the Bunnies in front, you would have thought the Panthers would capitulate. Instead, they fought their way back to win a very important game in the context of their season. Too many mistakes coming out of their own half would be a worry for coach Ivan Cleary, though he will take confidence in his side’s ability to hang in there and get the win.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 18
Tries: Cameron Murray, Liam Knight, Dane Gagai
Goals: Dane Gagai 2/3, Adam Doueihi 1/1
Drop Goals: Cody Walker 0/1
Penrith Panthers 19
Tries: Viliame Kikau, Brent Naden, Brian To’o
Goals: Nathan Cleary 3/4
Drop Goals: James Maloney 1/1
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 20. Alex Johnston 2. Dane Gagai 3. James Roberts 4. Kyle Turner 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Doueihi 14. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Liam Knight 11. John Sutton 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Dean Britt 17. Tom Amone 18. Rhys Kennedy.
Penrith Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Isaah Yeo 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To’o 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Frank Winterstein 13. Liam Martin. Interchange: 14. Wayde Egan 15. Jarome Luai 16. Moses Leota 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard.