The Penrith Panthers will look to continue their resurgence against a St George Illawarra Dragons side looking for a bit of luck to keep their season alive.
The Panthers began the match with a positive outset, throwing the ball out wide from the opening two sets. They found plenty of space and through defensive pressure of their own, found themselves in good attacking position. It led to two separate opportunities, which were referred to the bunker. The first was declined but the second was given the green light, providing a great reward for the positive ball movement. The Panthers continued to enjoy their share of possession, rounding at a dominant opening quarter with the teams second try to Naden. The only positive aspect for the Dragons being the two tries coming from kicks, in yet another poor opening stanza. The introduction of Korbin Sims- and a James Maloney kick out on the full- gave the Dragons their first attacking opportunity of the match. Some lovely footwork, followed by a fantastic pass from Leilua, led to a try in the corner to Ravalawa, providing a slight halt to Penrith’s domination. A dubious forward pass call against the Panthers had an immediate effect with Josh Kerr scoring a try after Cameron McInnes split the defence up the middle. His break was well supported and the quick play-the-ball that came from it resulted in a Dragons try and surprise 2-point lead. But the Panthers were able to retake the lead, when an attacking shift found Brian To’o splitting the line and sprinting over, despite Ravalawa’s best attempts to hold him up. The Panthers heading to the break with a 16-12 lead.
The Panthers put the pressure on the Dragons to open the second half with some early kicks. It resulted in an error from the Dragons and put the Panthers on attack, which they were able to extend their lead when Moses Leota crashed over after a quick interchange of passes between the forwards. The Panthers continued to control the match and their relentless style of play allowed them to cross for two quick tries in succession. The first from Nathan Cleary off a Maloney grubber kick and the second from Brian Naden, after a towering bomb by Clearly was spilt by Dufty. In a matter of minutes, the Dragons hopes were quickly put to bed. The defence from the Dragons was tired and soon their middle ruck was exposed. James Maloney took full advantage of this when he took the ball to the line and passed for Reagan Campbell-Gillard to crash over untouched. Viliame Kikau was sent to the sin bin in what could only be described as an attempt to somehow get the Dragons back into this one. And, unlike last week, the Dragons were able to bust over the line with the extra man, Paul Vaughan crashing over. James Maloney managed the back end of the match perfectly, ensuring the side finished their sets deep in Dragons territory. The Panthers fans were almost completely delighted with a try in the final minutes of play, when Moses Leota crashed over when a grubber kick rebounded off the posts, only for the forward to lose control with the final attempt. It ended the Panthers remarkable night with a 40-18 win over a sorry Dragons side.
MOVE IT WIDE AND EARLY
It was fantastic to see the Panthers use the ball on a wet night. It added some spark and flair to the encounter. Their game plan to throw it wide exposed the Dragons defence out wide, which looked like cracking every time shape was run at them. The only time the Panthers didn’t stick to their game plan was in the middle of the opening half, coinciding with the Dragons comeback.
The Panthers have solidified their place inside the top eight and Panthers fans will be pleased with the way the way they are putting the lower sides to the sword. The effort and energy was evident from the start and it was clear from their intent that would only be happy with a big win. Their match next week against the Raiders will put them in a position to push for a top four finish if they can extend it to eight in a row.
It was clear from the start how the Panthers were going to play and sadly the Dragons never attempted to go with them. Rather than finding a different gear to their attack, the Dragons continued with their one-out football in the hope the match would course correct. The Dragons attack has shown no improvement from last season and despite the need to show more variation in what they do, they continue to produce the same results.
To say the Dragons have been poor this season is putting it kindly and it’s hard to see any improvement. For years the Dragons have had defensive weaknesses out wide and the alarming factor isn’t just how easily the Panthers exposed it, it’s that not much appears to have been changed to counteract it.
Penrith Panthers 40
Tries: Brian To’o 2, Brent Naden 2, Moses Leota, Nathan Cleary, Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Goals: Nathan Cleary 6/7
St George Illawarra Dragons 18
Tries: Mikaele Ravalawa, Josh Kerr
Goals: Corey Norman 2/2
Penrith Panthers: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Dean Whare, 4 Brent Naden, 5 Brian To’o, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Mitchell Kenny, 10 James Fisher-Harris, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Frank Winterstein, 13 Isaah Yeo Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Jarome Luai, 16 Moses Leota, 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Jonus Pearson, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Mikaele Ravalawa, 6 Corey Norman, 7 Darren Nicholls, 8 Blake Lawrie, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 James Graham Interchange: 14 Josh Kerr, 15 Korbin Sims, 16 Patrick Kaufusi, 17 Luciano Leilua