Brendan Wood reviews the Penrith Panthers tough 20-16 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the prelim final. Here’s how the game went.
|4th||Try – Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs)||Rabbitohs 6-0|
|8th||Try – Brian To’o (Panthers)||6 All|
|27th||Try – Tyrone May (Panthers)||Panthers 12-6|
|39th||Penalty Goal – Nathan Cleary (Panthers)||Panthers 14-6|
|50th||Try – Dane Gagai (Rabbitohs)||Panthers 14-12|
|67th||Try – Dylan Edwards (Panthers)||Panthers 20-12|
|73rd||Try – Corey Allan (Rabbitohs)||Panthers 20-16|
There was plenty of controversy in the opening set when James Tamou was deemed to have made dangerous contact with Adam Reynolds after kicking. The Rabbitohs opted for the two points but Reynolds failed to convert. Not long after the miss, Reynolds set up the opening try to Alex Johnston with a pin-point cross field kick.
The Panthers we unfazed after conceding early points and responded with an opportunistic try of their own. Alex Johnston dropped a Nathan Cleary bomb and Brian To’o cleaned up the scraps to dive over and level the scores at 6-6.
The minor premiers enjoyed a strong period of play over the next ten minutes. They broke the Rabbitohs line several times and went close to scoring on a few occasions but couldn’t execute well enough to make inroads on the scoreboard.
Eventually it was some class from Nathan Cleary that broke the tie. He chipped a kick over the Rabbitohs defence, which came down on the try line for Tyrone May to catch and score. For the remainder of the first half both teams traded sets of six, with the Panthers getting the upper hand in the physical battle.
In the shadows of halftime, the Panthers were awarded a penalty when Stephen Crichton was taken out chasing a kick. They took the two points and extended their lead to 14-6 at the break.
The Rabbitohs needed to be the first to score in the second half and they did exactly that. Off the back of a Cameron Murray break, Cody Walker put Dane Gagai into a gap on the short side, who reached out and scored in the corner.
The next 20 minutes were an arm wrestle, with both sides battling hard to keep themselves in the game. The Panthers had the better of the attacking opportunities but failed to extend their lead with the Rabbitohs scrambling defence holding firm.
Api Koroisau sent worries through Panther’s fans when came from the field with a shoulder injury. In the passage of play with Koroisau off the field, the Rabbitohs picked up the pace to gain the ascendency in the physical battle.
After some back and forth sets through the middle of the field, Isaah Yeo stepped and put a fend on some tired Rabbitohs defence to break into the backfield. He drew the fullback across and passed to Dylan Edwards who scored under the posts.
Off the next kickoff the Rabbitohs opted for a short kick and recovered the ball. With good field position, Cody Walker threw a cut-out pass for Corey Allan but the pass went to ground. Allan was able to grubber the loose ball into the in-goal soccer style and scored.
With time winding down, Adam Reynolds looked to have nailed a 40/20 to give the Rabbitohs the ball deep in Panthers territory. However, he had a foot on the 40 metre line when he kicked which negated the 40/20.
In the final few minutes, the Panthers managed to hold on against a last ditch Rabbitohs effort to secure a 20-16 win and book a place in the grand final against the Melbourne Storm next week.
The highlight of the game was the match changing run made by Isaah Yeo with 12 minutes remaining to setup the Dylan Edwards try. With the game on a knife’s edge at 14-12, Yeo hit the ball up and looked to be contained by the Rabbitohs defence. His footwork, fend and agility got him the past several defenders and ultimately resulted in the match winning try for Edwards.
What makes his effort more impressive is that it came at a time when the Rabbitohs looked to be getting the better of the Panthers and were wrestling the momentum back in the game.
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 14. Tyrone May 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo Bench: 3. Brent Naden 16. Moses Leota 17. Zane Tetevano 18. Mitch Kenny.
Rabbitohs: 1. Corey Allan 2. Alex Johnston 12. Bayley Sironen 4. Dane Gagai 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 13. Cameron Murray 15. Liam Knight Bench: 14. Mark Nicholls 16. Jed Cartwright 17. Keaon Koloamatangi 19. Hame Sele.