Shannon Meyer reviews Penrith’s tough win over the Roosters on a wet and cold night at the foot of the mountains.
Penrith Panthers 26
Tries: Brian To’o (11), Viliame Kikau (39), Izack Tago (64), Api Koroisau (71)
Goals: Nathan Cleary 5 (7 – pen, 13, 40, 67, 72)
Sydney Roosters 18
Tries: Sam Walker (26), Siosiua Taukeiaho (46), Sam Verrills (52)
Goals: Sam Walker 3 (28, 47, 54)
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A wet and cold night awaited a big clash between the 2022 competition front-runners (Penrith) and a Roosters team struggling for wins in recent weeks. They would find it hard to beat a side who had only lost one game at home in nearly three years, and whose players combined to beat Queensland so handsomely the weekend before. The game itself featured a good number of victorious Blues players from either side.
The Roosters mixed up their line-up in the search of something different: with Joey Manu (fresh from his Superman performance for New Zealand in the International break) moved to five eighth, and Drew Hutchison then moving to hooker, and Sitili Tupouniua into the centres.
Penrith got the first points in the seventh minute when Nathan Cleary slotted the gift penalty from right in front of the posts five metres out.
The Panthers has a few half-chances in attack before doing it for real in the 11th minute with a slick move straight from a scrum. Nathan Cleary, Dylan Edwards, and Stephen Crichton all moved the ball sharply to Brian To’o, who cruised to the line to open the Panthers’ try scoring for the night. Cleary continued his perfect goal kicking from Origin II (8/8) with a sideline conversion to take an early 8-0 lead.Embed from Getty Images
The Roosters had their chance in attack after the first Penrith try, but wasted the possession and territory with simple mistakes.
Penrith almost made them pay when Jaeman Salmon made a 50-metre break up the middle of the field from a Roosters drop ball; but even though the set eventually fizzled out, Angus Crichton was sent to the sin bin at the end of the set for a professional foul on his namesake Stephen while the Panther was fishing in support of Salmon’s upstream run. This gave Penrith 10 minutes with an extra man which they surely wouldn’t waste.
But waste they did through a combination of the odd mistake and less effective last-tackle plays and plenty of grit shown by the Roosters.
That grit led the visitors to hit back with their first try of the night despite still being a player down. After a strong set, Manu bounced out of a few tackles then off-loaded to a flying James Tedesco up the middle who broke through a few more; in support on the inside was Sam Walker who completed the final 20 metres of the journey to score. Walker converted his own try to close the score to 8-6.Embed from Getty Images
The remainder of the second half was an even affair with both sides having chances, but a late penalty for a dangerous tackle against the Roosters gave Penrith one more chance to score before the break. Whether the tackle was dangerous was very questionable given the Roosters’ defenders was on the ground at the time of tackling.
The Panthers didn’t waste the chance as Viliame Kikau crashed through some Roosters defence close to the line to score. It was tough on the Roosters who had defended well up to that point. With fewer errors, the Roosters could have been on top themselves going into the half-time break, instead they were 14-6 down to a side who surrendered few leads.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 14 Sydney Roosters 6Embed from Getty Images
The Roosters started off the second half brightly with multiple repeat sets and multiple set restarts and penalties gifting them ball close to the line, and they took full advantage in the 46th minute when Siosiua Taukeiaho opened up the second half scoring. Eventually the consecutive sets took its toll as Taukeiaho powered on to a flat ball through some rare turnstile defense close to the line from the Panthers to score just beside the posts.
Kikau could have extended Penrith’s lead not long after, but he was cruelly denied by the bounce of the ball after a charge-down saw him on his own with just the ball and the tryline not far ahead. That again would have been harsh on the Roosters who were slowly taking control of the game.
After a repeat set from a neat last-tackle kick, the Roosters hit the front when Sam Verrills scooted over from a metre from the line, set up by a bustling run from Manu who threw a backwards-rolled offload toward Verrills. Walker kicked the easy conversion and now the Roosters were ahead 18-14. Such was their second half dominance, around the 60th minute they had 78% of the possession. They were also forcing mistakes out of the usually unflappable Panthers.
The next part of the game became a real arm wrestle, with the occasional big hit coming from either side. The Roosters had the edge slightly, but Penrith had so much firepower. With 20 minutes to go it was anyone’s game.
The Panthers clawed back the advantage when Izack Tago crossed in the 65th minute. The magic was weaved by Cleary who ran at the line: he could have kicked, or given it to a charging Kikau, but threw a sharp cut-out pass to Tago who powered to the line at ease. Cleary’s perfect night continued and gave Penrith a 20-18 lead. The Panthers needed that try as they did look a little exhausted leading up to their attacking set.Embed from Getty Images
After Penrith almost scored through Jarome Luai following a grubber into the in-goal, but the subsequent short drop-out didn’t quite work and Penrith had scored again within a few tackles. It was Api Koroisau who got the try as he dived over from dummy half close to the line, just after James Fisher-Harris was met by a big tackle but quickly got to his feet and played the ball. Cleary kicked his easiest conversion of the night, and all of a sudden Penrith were eight points up at 26-18, and as ever they did it so easy.
Penrith squeezed the life out of the Roosters in the final minutes of the game as they secured yet another win. They were tested and under immense pressure in large sections of the game, particularly in the first part of the second half but showed their class to eventually get the win.
For the Roosters, they were very good in patches, but there were too many errors for them to take full advantage. But the bottom line is they remain outside the top eight and are now on a run of four straight losses, with a run home that isn’t too easy.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 26 Sydney Roosters 18
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Nathan Cleary (Panthers), 2 pts – Joey Manu (Roosters), 1 pt – James Fisher-Harris (Panthers)
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