The Panthers’ finals hopes have been revived as four tries from David Simmons and 25 unanswered points in the second half helped them humble Wests Tigers 35-12 at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
The win brought an end to Penrith’s three-game losing streak and keeps them within touching distance of the top eight.
The Panthers took the field as per program while Dene Halatau was a late withdrawal for the Tigers, with Brendan Santi coming onto the bench.
The Panthers have struggled to find their timing in recent weeks and the early signs weren’t good as their initial kick-off was called back for a false start.
In the 10th minute, a perfect Peter Wallace pass sent Dallin Watene-Zelezniak steaming towards the tryline but the fullback lost the ball as he went to ground.
Back-to-back penalties then gifted the Tigers dangerous possession on the Panthers’ line and they took full advantage.
In the 15th minute a Robbie Farah grubber into the in-goal bounced wickedly and ricocheted off the Panthers defenders before Chris Lawrence grounded it for the try.
Tigers centre Tim Simona left the field with an ankle sprain not long after, forcing back rower Kyle Lovett to shift to the left edge in his place.
The Panthers took full advantage of the change as Dean Whare found space past Lovett, then unleashed David Simmons down the touchline. His ball back on the inside to Wallace was pinpoint and the playmaker streaked away to score under the posts. Jamie Soward’s successful conversion levelled the match at 6-6 in the 25th minute.
Wallace was back in the action not long after as he punted a 40/20 to give Penrith an attacking set. Two plays and some swift hands later, boom winger Josh Mansour celebrated his return from injury with a try in the corner. Soward’s conversion attempt hit the post, leaving the score 10-6.
With five minutes left in the half the Tigers replied as winger Kevin Naiqama dived on a deft Luke Brooks grubber. Pat Richards then booted the conversion from the right-hand touchline to put the home side back in front, 12-10.
In the final minute before the break Tyrone Peachey picked up a loose ball and looked destined to score, only to be cut down by the Tigers defenders as the tryline approached.
HALF TIME - Wests Tigers 12-10
The Panthers enjoyed a great start to the second half as a swift passing move and an intelligent angled run from Simmons saw him crash over for the try. Soward nailed the conversion to put Penrith ahead 16-12.
The video referee denied Watene-Zelezniak a try in the in the 47th minute, ruling obstruction on Brooks in the lead-up play.
It was the same ‘no try’ outcome three minutes later as Penrith’s desperate defence somehow managed to stop Lawrence from grounding the ball.
From the next set the Panthers marched down field and those slick hands on the right edge got the job done again as Simmons crossed, untouched, for his second try. Soward’s conversion attempt was waved away but Penrith led 20-12 in the 52nd minute.
The next try followed a familiar pattern as Whare blitzed past Lovett again, drew the fullback and hit Simmons with a perfect pass for the winger’s third try of the night and the 100th of his NRL career. Soward missed the conversion attempt, leaving the score 24-12.
Wallace nailed a field goal with 15 minutes left on the clock, pushing the Panthers’ lead beyond two converted tries.
The confusion on the Tigers’ left edge was again exploited as Watene-Zelezniak put some icing on the cake with a try in the 74th minute. Api Koroisau, who looked dangerous all night, missed the conversion attempt, leaving the score at 29-12.
Then, as the clock hit zero, Simmons celebrated his milestone match with another try under the posts. He even converted it to seal Penrith’s much-needed victory.
FULL TIME – Panthers 35-12