The ISP Panthers fell 22-18 at the hands of a composed Wests Tigers outfit on Saturday at Pepper Stadium.
Te Maire Martin worked hard in the halves to create opportunities, but in the end Penrith were unable to turn enough possession into much-needed points.
The visitors looked set to open the scoring but fullback Dylan Edwards diffused a menacing Tigers bomb to win back possession. The Panthers won consecutive sets to charge their way down the field. Martin fired a bomb to Josh Hall on the final tackle, but Hall was grounded just inches from the line.
Wests Tigers almost hit back with a cunning grubber courtesy of NRL veteran Robbie Farah, but Penrith’s defence held tight.
The drought was finally broken by West Tigers second rower Rod Griffin, who crashed over from close range in the 28th minute. Captain Justin Hunt wasted no time in slotting the conversion to put his side ahead 6-0.
Desperate for a four-pointer of their own, the Panthers fired play down the left flank. The home side got gruellingly close, as TMM was held up in the 37th minute.
Penrith's persistence was finally rewarded in the 38th minute, with a Zach Dockar-Clay offload that saw Atonio Pelesasa crash over. Hall successfully converted and both sides hit the sheds gridlocked on the scoreboard.
Halftime - Panthers 6-6
The Tigers set the tempo for the second stanza in the 42nd minute, with Farah barging his way over out of dummy half. Hunt sent the ball through the posts to boost his side ahead 12-6.
Martin directed play from left to right before finding his halves partner Andrew Heffernan. Heffernan dummied and impressively side-stepped around Farah to cross in the 56th minute. Hall slotted the conversion to once again level the score 12-12.
Martin continued to ruffle feathers with a zippy linebreak in the 58th minute, but the Tigers won back possession.
The 62nd minute saw Manaia Cherrington make no hesitation in dummying to bust his way over. Hunt slotted the conversion to take the lead for a third time, 18-12.
Taking advantage of repeat sets, Wests Tigers continued to run amok through holes in Penrith's defence. Curtis Sironen eventually crossed in the 71st minute and the Tigers edged ahead 22-12 as Hunt's conversion was waved away.
Zach Dockar-Clay was in the right place at the right time and the Panthers captain dived over in the 78th minute, and Hall converted to close the gap to 22-18.
The Panthers were gifted with a scrum in the final minute of play but were unable to muster the composure needed to pull of a last-second try.
Fulltime - Wests Tigers 22-18