Shannon Meyer reviews another solid night out for the Panthers, as Penrith win their 12th straight game, and another loss for an improved Broncos side.
|9th||Try Kotoni Staggs (Brisbane)||Brisbane 4-0|
|11th||Goal Kotoni Staggs (Brisbane)||Brisbane 6-0|
|24th||Try Josh Mansour (Penrith)||Brisbane 6-4|
|25th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Scores tied 6-6|
|33rd||Penalty Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 8-6|
|36th||Try Kurt Capewell (Penrith)||Penrith 12-6|
|37th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 14-6|
|55th||Try Jarome Luai (Penrith)||Penrith 18-6|
|56th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 20-6|
|62nd||Try Jordan Riki (Brisbane)||Penrith 20-10|
|64th||Goal Kotoni Staggs (Brisbane)||Penrith 20-12|
|69th||Try Brian To’o (Penrith)||Penrith 24-12|
|76th||Field Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 25-12|
For a rare occasion in 2020 since the restart, the Broncos appeared to have the upper hand early; they were handed an opportunity in the fifth minute when James Tamou dropped the ball not far from his line. The Broncos got themselves a repeat set at the first attempt in the left corner, but a second try didn’t work out either. But the Broncos looked sharper than ever.
Brisbane received another gift five minutes later after an error from Josh Mansour 20 metres from his own line: this time they took full advantage through a Kotoni Staggs try. Who else? Sharp passing to the right from Tom Dearden to Darius Boyd found a gap for Staggs, who pierced it perfectly to open the scoring for the night. Staggs converted his own try for the Broncos to lead 6-0.
It was only the third time this season that Penrith haven’t scored first this season.
The Broncos were on top for a while thereafter, helped by a superior kicking game from the Broncos, and a few questionable 50-50 calls going against the Panthers. It looked like it may just not be the table-topping Panthers’ night.
Penrith’s first penalty of the game (and only second of the match to that point) came in the 24th minute, and it lead to their first points of the match within the next set. Having got close to the Broncos’ line, it took quick hands to their left from Api Koroisau to Jarome Luai via James Fisher-Harris and Nathan Cleary: Luai jinked and fended off some reasonably soft Broncos attempts at tackle and had an unmarked Mansour to his left to do the rest.
The try seemed to spark the Panthers into life. But an uncharacteristic from Cleary on the fifth tackle – readying for a cross-field kick – dented the newfound enthusiasm.
It didn’t take long for Penrith to get down the other end, and they earned a repeat set from some nifty work from Stephen Crichton. That then led to two points courtesy of a ruck penalty in the next set, and Penrith hit the front for the first time in the 33rd minute.
A Patrick Carrigan knock on led to Penrith extending their lead, as a few plays later a perfect Cleary grubber found space, and so did Kurt Capewell, who scored with his first touch of the evening: it was his return game from injury, having last played in the round five loss to the Eels, which was Penrith’s last loss coincidentally. Not to say anything against the former Cronulla Shark and Ipswich Jet.
The conversion made it 14-6, which remained the score at the break.
Given the Broncos average under five points per second half since the restart, the eight-point half time margin looked safe enough for Penrith.
A promising Panthers attack early in the second half was stopped through a knock on, but Penrith certainly came out of the break looking the sharper. Not for the first time this season, Brisbane looked flat coming out of the break.
By the 50th minute Penrith were well and truly on top, attacking the Broncos with ease without result, helped by Broncos errors and attacking apathy. Brisbane couldn’t hold on forever.
And they didn’t. After a repeat set, and a penalty, and another penalty – all in Broncos danger territory – Cleary again provided the perfect grubber kick close to the line, and his halves partner Luai was the most enthusiastic chaser, just grounding the ball to the left of the post after a Bunker green light.
Against the overall trend to the second half to that point, Brisbane were next to score through interchange forward Jordan Riki. Having done a decent job in defence against Kikau since coming on, he split Laui and Viliame Kikau himself to charge 40 metres and score in the right corner, with the try assist coming via a fine short pass from Dearden. The sideline conversion got Brisbane back within eight points, and with a spring in their step.
It didn’t last long though, as Penrith extended their lead again through the usual suspects to the right – Koroisau to Cleary to Dylan Edwards – whose fine cutout pass found Brian To’o with room and he completed the 15-metre journey almost untouched in the corner. A rare missed conversion left the door open for Brisbane with a 12-point margin with 10 minutes to go.
Cleary removed any doubt on the game with four minutes to go, as he slotted a sweetly timed field goal from 30 metres out to seal the game. The halfback almost scored after that as well, but knocked the ball on from a grubber, and was involved in cleaning up a potential Broncos raid in a very busy last five minutes.
None of it lead to more points, and Penrith enjoyed a solid away win over a team that they haven’t fared too well against recently.
Overall, it wasn’t the very best of nights from Penrith, but they did enough and it was a 12th straight win. Nor was it one of Brisbane’s worst nights in 2020: they weren’t as awful as they have been in the second half. But at this stage of the season, and given their relative positions on the ladder, it’ll do.
It was a game of very few big moments, but there were a few noteworthy points.
Jarome Luai’s effort taking the kick off after their first try and Stephen Crichton’s effort which led to a repeat set and subsequent penalty goal were great pieces of skill.
Kurt Capewell’s return from injury and scoring with his first touch is a good story for an underrated player, who may end up being a very valuable asset to the Panthers on the run into the finals.
Penrith’s fullback Dylan Edwards isn’t one of the more hyped number ones in the competition, but he has been quite reliable, and his positioning in taking the Broncos’ kicks looked effortless, and got the Panthers off to a good start for most sets. His pass for the Brian To’o pass was decent also.
Not long ago Brisbane’s Kotoni Staggs called out senior teammates at the Broncos, urging them to step up. He had a point then, and still has one today. And unlike most of his team mates, he walks the walk to go with the chat. Staggs was great again tonight for Brisbane, a rare shining light in 2020, scoring the first try for Brisbane, and a great run with a nuclear fend late in the game wasn’t rewarded with a second try. The Broncos must do everything they can to keep him at the club for as long as possible. It’s the least he deserves after his efforts this season.
Brisbane Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Richard Kennar 6. Sean O’Sullivan 7. Tom Dearden 8. Payne Haas 9. Issac Luke 10. Rhys Kennedy 11. David Fifita 12. Ben Te’o 13. Patrick Carrigan. Interchange: 14. Cory Paix 15. Jordan Riki 16. Ethan Bullemor 17. Jamil Hopoate.
Penrith Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Brent Naden 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 18. Apisai Koroisau 10. Moses Leota 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. James Fisher-Harris. Interchange: 14. Tyrone May 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Kurt Capewell 17. Zane Tetevano.