The Raiders have ended the Panthers’ winning streak with a 30-18 win at Panthers Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It was the perfect start for the Panthers who took advantage of a Raiders error through a Brian To’o try. Nathan Cleary set up the opener with a beautiful cutout pass to set up a two-on-one on the right edge. Penrith dominated possession and were camped in the Raiders’ 20 for the next 10 minutes, but couldn’t take advantage, with some strong Raiders defence.
Canberra hit back with their first attacking opportunity through Josh Papalii, who crashed over next to the posts to take a 6-4 lead. They came close shortly after when Jarrod Croker was taken out chasing a kick, resulting in Dean Whare being sent to the sin bin for a professional foul. Elliott Whitehead broke through the following set to give the Raiders a 12-4 lead in the 22nd minute. A penalty goal to the Panthers on the stroke of half time made it 12-6.
The Raiders were in just five minutes into the second half when Michael Oldfield made a break down the right edge, before putting in a grubber kick that landed in the lap of Aidan Sezer who grounded the ball between the posts. The Panthers bounced back just three minutes later through Moses Leota. James Maloney nailed a perfect chip kick that bounced perfectly into the hands of James Fisher-Harris who handed it off to Leota.
Their joy was shortlived when the Raiders were in again in the 54th minute. A cross-field kick from Sezer was spilled by Josh Mansour, bounced into the in-goal and was grounded by Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad after Brent Naden was unable to push it dead, making it 22-12. When Jordan Rapana crossed in the 59th minute to extend the lead Canberra looked like they might run away with it, but the Panthers slowly worked their way back.
The Panthers had multiple sets in a row on the Raiders’ line but lacked direction and weren’t able to crack it until James Tamou finally crossed next to the posts to set up a tight final 10 minutes at 26-18. Five minutes later, John Bateman cleaned up a short goal line drop out and scored to seal the 30-18 win.
Raiders’ Defence on Show
The Raiders are one of the best defensive teams in the competition, conceding the second-least points in the competition, and it proved the difference in this game. The Panthers enjoyed a lot of sets in good attacking spots but struggled to break the Raiders’ defence.
After 10 minutes, the Panthers had 91 per cent possession but only managed one try. Had they added another one or two early on, the game could have ended very differently.
Panthers’ Attacking Struggles
While the Raiders defence was a highlight of their win, the Panthers also seemed to struggle in attack at times. After a beautiful set play set up their opening try, they lacked direction inside the Raiders’ 20.
They had their chances in the opening 10 minutes but couldn’t make the most of them. Again, the Panthers had their opportunities in the second half, and could only crack the Raiders’ defence following four consecutive sets on their line. While they were on song last week against the Dragons, against a better defensive side the Panthers’ attacking issues were in the spotlight.
Raiders a Premiership Threat
The Raiders have been one of the surprise packets of 2019, and following today’s win are entrenched inside the top four. Their attitude in defence is the major factor in their strong form, and if they can keep that going they’ll be tough to stop in the finals.
They have a tough run home, with games against the Roosters, Storm and Sea Eagles, but with their current form it’s tough to bet against them.
Winning Streak Over
The Panthers came into this clash on the back of an impressive seven-win streak, but that was broken. Had they made it eight wins in a row it would have brought back memories from 2003, the last time Penrith managed that feat, but it wasn’t to be.
It’s back to the drawing board for the Panthers, who still sit in seventh but now face an almost impossible task to make the top four. They have a relatively easy run home, but there is plenty of work ahead if they want to do some damage in the finals.
Penrith Panthers 18
Tries: Brian To’o, Moses Leota, James Tamou
Goals: Nathan Cleary 3/4
Canberra Raiders 30
Tries: Josh Papalii, Elliott Whitehead, Aidan Sezer, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jordan Rapana, John Bateman
Goals: Jarrod Croker 3/6
Penrith Panthers: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Brent Naden, 5 Brian To’o, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Mitchell Kenny, 10 James Fisher-Harris, 13 Isaah Yeo, 12 Frank Winterstein, 21 Liam Martin Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Jarome Luai, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
Canberra Raiders: 1 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2 Bailey Simonsson, 3 Jarrod Croker, 4 Michael Oldfied, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Jack Wighton, 7 Aidan Sezer, 8 Josh Papalii, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Iosia Soliola, 11 John Bateman, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Joseph Tapine Interchange: 14 Siliva Havili, 15 Emre Guler, 16 Corey Hursburgh, 17 Dunamis Lui.