2023 NRL Round 20: Panthers 24, Dolphins 14

The visiting Panthers got the better of a spirited Dolphins performance with a late comeback at Kayo Stadium to take the lead at the top of the table.

Result

Penrith Panthers 24
Tries: (5) Izack Tago 8th, Izack Tago 16th; Tom Jenkins 68th, 77th; Moses Leota 4th
Goals: (2) Dylan Edwards 69th, 78th

The Dolphins 14
Tries: (3) Kodi Nikorima 33rd; Connelly Lemuelu 51st; Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 55th
Goals: (1) Jamayne Isaako 53rd

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The Panthers travelled to Kayo Stadium with a somewhat weakened side, still missing talisman Nathan Cleary, though they felt little effect early on with Moses Leota making his way over the tryline just over four minutes into the contest.

With Jack Cogger missing the conversion, the visitors led 4-0 and soon extended their lead through Izack Tago on the eight-minute mark, but only added four extra with Cogger missing off the tee once more. Complete dominance of the opening exchanges saw Tago grab a second for the game to extend the margin to 12 on the 17-minute mark, but with Cogger missing yet another conversion the Panthers were not getting true value for their dominance early on.

Penrith were denied another try by the Bunker later on in the half, and it took until the 33-minute mark for the Dolphins to get on the board, this time through Kodi Nikorima after finding joy off the back of a sin bin for Cogger, cutting the lead to eight after a missed conversion from Jamayne Isaako.

The second half saw the Dolphins take a firm hold of the game through the sin-bin period, and the first half of the second period, with territorial dominance aided by Penrith errors and ill-discipline, which culminated in Connelly Lemuelu scoring off an inspired grubber kick and gather to cut the lead to just two points after an Isaako conversion.

The Dolphins rode their dominance and capitalised again just shy of the 56-minute mark, with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow getting over for his side down the left edge.

The defending Premiers were not flustered, however, and slowly worked the arm wrestle back in their favour to ultimately force errors from the home side and gain excellent field position for the final period of the half.

In doing so, they finally broke the deadlock by spreading the ball wide of a tiring and meek defensive effort from a desperate Dolphins side on fifth tackle after a loose Matthew Eisenhuth offload. Tom Jenkins made the Dolphins pay in the corner and, after a change of kicker, Dylan Edwards nailed the conversion to put his side four points up and all but win them the game.

They continued to dominate the field position for the final 10 minutes with a tiring Dolphins side offering up free metres and errors to boost the visitors’ charge. More errors coming out of their own half saw the Dolphins gift Penrith more field position with three minutes to play, off the back of which Tago and Jenkins combined for the winger to cross untouched down the right-hand edge. Edwards made no mistake and pushed the lead out to 10 with another well-struck conversion with just over a minute left to play.

A short kick-off couldn’t save the Dolphins and instead gave Penrith more ball to attack with for the final set of the game; they duly obliged and shifted down their fruitful right edge to give Jenkins a chance to kick through for himself close to the line only to knock on when attempting a put down. The Dolphins ran out the remaining time and fell 24-14 to an inspired late comeback from the understrength visiting Panthers.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTS

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3 – Izack Tago (Panthers)
2 – Dylan Edwards (Panthers)
1 – Euan Aitken (Dolphins)

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