Shannon Meyer reviews a good win for the Panthers in the all-Sydney contest at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
|6th||Try Brent Naden (Penrith)||Penrith 4-0|
|27th||Try Stephen Crichton (Penrith)||Penrith 8-0|
|49th||Try Bayley Sironen (Souths)||Penrith 8-4|
|51st||Goal Adam Reynolds (Souths)||Penrith 8-6|
|59th||Try Dylan Edwards (Penrith)||Penrith 12-6|
|68th||James Roberts (Souths) – SIN BIN||Penrith 12-6|
|69th||Penalty goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 14-6|
|76th||Latrell Mitchell (Souths) – SIN BIN||Penrith 14-6|
|77th||Try Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 18-6|
|78th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 20-6|
|79th||Try Alex Johnston (Souths)||Penrith 20-10|
|79th||Goal Adam Reynolds (Souths)||Penrith 20-12|
A Thursday night without the Broncos for a change, and the all-Sydney clash provided enough entertainment for every state to enjoy, and certainly plenty for some people of western Sydney as the Panthers climbed to the top of the ladder temporarily.
Penrith dominated much of the first half, having a massive advantage with territory and ball for the first half hour, but they weren’t able to turn that into as many first half points as they probably should have.
The Panthers did score two first half tries, and the first of these came in the sixth minute. A high kick to the Rabbitohs winger Dane Gagai was not dealt with effectively, and Viliame Kikau was able to knock the ball back to a waiting team mate who then found winger Brent Naden, who slid over in the the left corner.
Penrith continued to take advantage, especially up the middle where metres seemed to be too easy, and Kikau caused mayhem down the left; they should have scored not long after, but the final pass went forward when a try looked on.
Naden could have scored another try, and again off easy metres up the middle, but he had the ball knocked out of his hands while diving for the corner.
Souths eventually got some ball, and got into the game; the problem was every time they were in a promising position there was an error or a poor fifth tackle option.
One such Souths knock on led to a set restart the next Penrith set, then a fifth tackle penalty, then eventually a second Penrith try. The Panthers threatened the Rabbitohs’ line and found a way through when Jarome Luai provided the perfect grubber for Stephen Crichton, who out-enthused Dane Gagai to the ball to score. An off night with the boot for Nathan Cleary kept the Rabbitohs in the game, as the 8-0 score was most generous to them.
Souths probably had the upper hand in the last 10 minutes of the first half, and came close to scoring down their left side, but the final Alex Johnston pass went forward, and despite Souths’ best efforts the score remained 8-0 until half time.
The Rabbitohs maintained the upper hand to start the second half, and it wasn’t long before they reduced the gap to two points when Bailey Sironen scored his first NRL try in the 49th minute. Souths had taken advantage of penalties and a repeat set, and the try came when Adam Reynolds threw a perfect inside pass to a charging Sironen from 10 metres out. The conversion made it 8-6, and Souths appeared to have the momentum.
That momentum was halted when Penrith’s fullback Dylan Edwards scored in the 59th minute, fresh off the back of a momentum-building penalty. A few tackles after the tap was taken, Edwards scored a try as he tenaciously jinked from a standing start after a simple movement right broke down from 10 metres out. Cleary’s off night with the conversions continued with a third straight miss.
The game started to slip away from the Rabbitohs from there, as a failed touch finder led to Penrith getting good ball and territory, and the Panthers almost scored down the left with a deft grubber that was cleaned up by Souths. But in the chase for the ball, returning Rabbitohs centre James Roberts had interfered with Stephen Crichton, and was promptly sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
Cleary got his first goal for the night with the two pointer, and Souths’ chances had now taken a dive: behind by eight points with ten minutes to go and a man down.
It didn’t stop the Rabbitohs attacking, and not for the first time in the game, a promising attack was spoiled by a knock on.
Not long after that 12 players became 11, as Latrell Mitchell was sent to the sin bin, again for a professional foul, which probably summed up his night. Mitchell made a beautiful covering tackle, shutting down a Penrith attack close to the line, but he held onto the Panthers player’s boot for just a fraction too long, who then stepped on the touch line, for which a penalty and sin bin followed.
In a whirlwind ending to the game, probably only affecting those gambling on an exact score, both sides squeezed in a try in the final three minutes. First was Cleary, who got a just reward for his efforts on the night, going over after a sensational dummy sucked in the Souths defence. The try near to the posts gave him a chance to nail his first conversion of the night.
Equally rewarded for giving his all as ever was Alex Johnston, who scored a diving try into the corner and made avoiding touch look like a piece of cake, as did Adam Reynolds with the sideline conversion, to make the score 20-12 and add respectability, if nothing else.
For Souths it was a game to test their top half credentials, and their current midfield position probably looks about right. Very few top eight sides would be worried about Souths at the moment.
Penrith currently lead the competition, and would not have been many tipsters choice for the 2020 crown, but you can’t argue about the teams they’ve beaten nor the way they are currently going about their football.
Nathan Cleary was one of the focus points for the Panthers on Thursday night, and not just for the strapping tape over his face to protect a boil right in between the eyes, which made him look like an extra on Star Trek. He has seemingly put his lockdown punishment behind him, and is making up for lost time. His all-round play is better than ever, and he is thriving running the show for Penrith. He is helped by an outstanding platform laid by their men up the middle, and the behemoth Kikau down the left.
Once again we’ll probably be asked by Supergrump Wayne Bennett not to ask about Latrell Mitchell, but it is hard not to when he has the kind of night he had tonight. Once again there was moments where you saw the magic that made him one of the big name centres in the game for the Roosters, but there are still way too many errors or bad options for someone who rates himself as highly as he does. The sin binning sums his season, as explained above.
1 Dylan Edwards 19 Brent Naden 3 Dean Whare 4 Stephen Crichton 5 Brian To’o 6 Jarome Luai 7 Nathan Cleary 8 James Tamou 9 Apisai Koroisau 10 James Fisher-Harris 11 Viliame Kikau 12 Liam Martin 13 Isaah Yeo. Interchange: 14 Matt Burton 15 Zane Tetevano 16 Moses Leota 17 Billy Burns.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
1 Latrell Mitchell 2 Dane Gagai 3 Campbell Graham 4 Braidon Burns 5 Alex Johnston 6 Cody Walker 7 Adam Reynolds 8 Tevita Tatola 9 Damien Cook 10 Thomas Burgess 11 Jaydn Su’A 12 Ethan Lowe 13 Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14 Liam Knight 15 Bailey Sironen 17 James Roberts 19 Hame Sele.