Penrith Panthers were on the receiving end of a defensive masterclass from the Sydney Roosters as they suffered a humbling 24-4 defeat at Pepper Stadium on Saturday.
The Panthers struggled to find a way through the Roosters’ physical defensive line, while the pace of the away side’s outside backs delivered them the opportunities and points they needed.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary stuck with the side he named during the week, which was unchanged from last week’s win against the Rabbitohs.
In the only change for the Roosters, Aidan Guerra was rested after his Origin success, with Siosiua Taukeiaho named to start and Boyd Cordner dropping back to the bench.
The Panthers failed to complete their opening two sets of the game but with some desperate, scrambling defence, they managed to repel the Roosters first attacking forays.
A long range Mitchell Pearce break in the 11th minute was contained but the Roosters earned a repeat set, then a penalty. Pearce slotted it from beside the posts for a 2-0 lead.
Four minutes later Penrith were left filthy as the officials somehow missed a hand from ex-Panther Michael Jennings knocking down an offload from Bryce Cartwright. And the boys from the Eastern Suburbs took full advantage of their good fortune.
From the next set, Blake Ferguson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck combined in space down the right before putting Shaun Kenny-Dowall away for the try. Maloney missed the conversion attempt but the Roosters were out to a 6-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Not long after, the despised Penrith injury curse struck again and David Simmons left the field with a back complaint. Lewis Brown suddenly found himself in the unfamiliar position of right centre and Dean Whare shifted onto the right wing.
Despite the reshuffle, the Panthers enjoyed a number of chances on the Roosters’ line. However their attacking efforts were repeatedly blunted by the physicality and organisation of the defence.
Panthers fans held their collective breath with ten minutes to go in the half as Cartwright was caught awkwardly in a tackle around the ankles. Fortunately, after several nervous moments, a lost boot appeared to be the only damage.
An incisive break up the middle from Elijah Taylor in the 34th minute came to nothing as the Roosters recovered to clean up the Api Koroisau grubber on the end of it.
Penrith had one final attacking opportunity to end the half but the Roosters held firm, as they had throughout the first 40 minutes.
HALFTIME – Roosters 6-0
The Panthers’ attacking possession continued after the break but despite some enterprising play, they couldn’t quite crack the seemingly impregnable defensive line.
Ten minutes after halftime a fifth tackle kick from Maloney was knocked back by a leaping Ferguson, before ending in the hands of Kenny-Dowall to stroll over untouched. Maloney converted for a 12-0 lead.
A Waqa Blake error under the high ball and a subsequent penalty goal from Maloney pushed the Roosters’ lead out to 14-0 with 24 minutes left in the game.
Suddenly the visitors were in top gear and only a desperate intercept from Isaah Yeo denied another Roosters try from their next set of six.
However they weren’t to wait long for more points as Tuivasa-Sheck twisted in the tackle of Blake and reached out to ground the ball on the tryline in the 59th minute. Maloney missed the conversion attempt but the Roosters were out to an 18-0 lead.
The Panthers finally earned their first points in the 65th minute and it came from an unlikely source – makeshift centre Brown cutting back from the far right wing. Koroisau’s attempted conversion hit the post, leaving the score 18-4.
Any thoughts of a miraculous comeback were ended as the Roosters found themselves camped themselves on Penrith’s tryline.
Eventually, through a charge from Jared Warea-Hargreaves, they went over for their fourth and final try of the night in the 75th minute.
The Panthers now look ahead to a showdown with Melbourne Storm on Friday, in a match that is shaping up as must-win if they are to keep touch with the competition’s top eight.
FULLTIME – Roosters 24-4