The Penrith Panthers NYC side re-established top spot on the table with a domineering 34-10 victory over South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
After a tight opening stanza the Panthers ran away with the game in the second half, assisted in no small part by the sin-binning of Souths centre Tevita Cottrell.
Christian Crichton, Daniel Brown and Stanton Albert dropped out of the match squad with Corey Harawira named in the centres, Jake Ennis on the wing and Paea Pua shifted into the front row. Workhorse Tyrone May returned at lock after missing last week’s demolition of Canberra Raiders.
A chance in the opening sets went begging for the Panthers as a Kade Ellis couldn’t handle a bullet pass with the tryline at his mercy. Pua was the next to miss an opportunity, dropping the ball over the line in the 11th minute.
The Panthers paid for their mistakes two minutes later as their right edge defence was found short with simple hands and Rabbitohs winger Devon Makoare-Boyce opened the scoring. Eli Levido converted from out wide to give the home side a 6-0 lead.
With the offloads beginning to stick, Penrith hit back in the 22nd minute as fullback Dylan Edwards sprinted through to dive on the end of a deft Nathan Cleary grubber. Cleary failed to convert, leaving the score 6-4.
Four minutes later Ellis made up for his earlier error, latching onto a May short ball to crash his way over. Once again the conversion was waved away but the Panthers were in front 8-6.
Unfortunately for Ellis his match didn’t last much longer as the hard-running forward was led from the field after a head knock with six minutes left in the first half.
Off the back of a South error, the Panthers pulled a short-side play from the scrum and Harawira strolled over for a 36th minute try. Cleary’s radar was offline as he missed another conversion and the score remained 12-6.
A Penrith error from the ensuing kick-off gave Souths the final opportunity of the half but the Panthers defence held firm to protect their lead.
HALFTIME – Panthers 12-6
It took only three minutes of the second half for the Panthers to extend their lead. Dylan Fuad took the ball to the line before delivering a short pass to Thomson Tuigimala for the try. Cleary converted from directly in front for an 18-6 advantage.
Helped down the field by an incisive line break and subsequent penalty, Souths his straight back in the 48th minute. Winger Josh Ellison was put in the clear from 20m out and sprinted to the corner. Levido missed the conversion attempt, leaving the score 18-10.
The Rabbitohs hopes of a comeback took a terminal hit in the 54th minute as Cottrell was sent to the sin bin following a report from the touch judge.
The Panthers took one set to strike, with quick hands on the left edge putting Edwards over for his second try of the day. Cleary must have changed into his kicking boots at the break as he slotted the conversion from out wide for a 24-10 lead.
Winger Fuimanu Enese joined the try-scoring action two minutes later as the Panthers pounced on an error from Rabbitohs fullback Irae Simone. For the second time in the game, Cleary’s conversion struck the upright but Penrith led 28-10.
Jarome Luai was the next the score for Penrith as Enese broke down the left touchline before rolling a perfect grubber into the in-goal for the five-eighth. The successful conversion pushed the Panthers’ lead out to 34-10 in the 63rd minute.
As the game drew to a close, both sides had their share of attacking opportunities but handling errors meant the scoreboard remained the same.
FULLTIME – Panthers 34-10