The winning streak of the Penrith Panthers NYC side has been ended with a disappointing 10-6 defeat to Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
With his team having won their previous nine straight, coach Cameron Ciraldo made a late change as Corey Harawira returned from injury to take his place in the back row. Shane Kiel dropped back to the bench.
It was a forgettable opening half with both teams struggling to complete their sets and convert their attacking opportunities.
Eight minutes in skipper Brent Naden made an incisive break up the middle but couldn’t land the final pass with winger Braidon Burns open and the tryline beckoning.
Penalties began to stack up as ill-discipline crept into Penrith’s defence, giving the Tigers the majority of possession and repeated sets on the Panthers’ line.
The scoreless deadlock was finally broken after 20 minutes as quick hands put Tigers centre Marion Seve over from close range. Veiru Mapesone converted to give the home side a 6-0 lead.
Penrith thought they had hit back in the 32nd minute as Soni Hala powered over but he was penalised for a double movement.
With five minutes left in the half, halfback Sam Elwin pulled off a stellar try-saving tackle, somehow twisting his body under a rampaging Esan Marsters and holding up the ball.
As the seconds ticked down to halftime, the Panthers had one final chance to find the tryline but couldn’t find the right move to break down the Tigers’ stern defence.
HALFTIME – Wests Tigers 6-0
The break didn’t appear to help Penrith rectify their poor handling as they opened the second half with more dropped ball and incomplete sets.
They were made to pay in the 52nd minute as an optimistic cross-field kick from Tigers playmaker Te Maire Martin was gobbled up by winger Tom Satterthwaite, who strolled over unchallenged. The conversion was unsuccessful but the home side were ahead 10-0.
Just when it looked like the Panthers were about to open their account a couple of minutes later, Tigers debutant Ray Stone pulled off a critical one-on-one tackle within inches of the tryline.
However Penrith weren’t to be denied in the 61st minute as back-to-back penalties put them in prime attacking territory.
With a bullocking charge, prop Paea Pua bumped off a couple would-be tacklers and crashed over. Nathan Cleary converted from directly in front to make the score 10-6.
From the Panthers next set, Elwin launched a kick on the fifth tackle and was taken out late by the Tigers defence. As he was stretchered off, Penrith went on the attack but again couldn’t find the decisive play they needed.
The minutes slipped away as the Panthers resorted to risky offloads and hopeful kicks – none of which paid dividends.
A final opportunity went begging as the bouncing ball cruelly evaded the grasp of Naden in sight of the tryline, and the streak was over.
FULLTIME – Wests Tigers 10-6