Penrith have secured their 5th win in six weeks and are ready to charge into the NRL Finals after defeating Wests Tigers 40-10 in Friday night football at Pepper Stadium.
The win comes on the back of the combined 80 points they piled on against the Roosters and Knights, and leaves them as one of the most in-form sides heading into the last two rounds of the competition.
The locals knew they were in for a treat early in the game when Josh Addo-Carr finished off a brilliant piece of play for the Wests Tigers, with Mitchell Moses throwing a precision floating-pass out to the winger.
But the 14,876 fans at Pepper Stadium blew up when they saw Moses had received the ball from a blatant Aaron Woods’ forward pass. The referees’ howler meant the Tigers led 4-0 after just 5 minutes.
The crowd didn’t have to wait long for vengeance though, with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak breaking out of his own 10-metre line to run most of the field before throwing a sharp, one-handed pass inside to Waqa Blake who finished it off. Cleary’s 11th minute conversion put Penrith in front for the first time at 6-4.
The home side were handed prime attacking position when The Bunker overruled a lost ball, and they took their chance with Bryce Cartwright winding up on the left edge before cutting back through to the centre to find his way over. Cleary put another two on the board, making it 12-4 after 18 minutes.
A monster bomb from Nathan Cleary put Tigers’ stand-in fullback Jordan Ranking under the pump, and he faulted – giving Penrith another crack midway through the first half. They couldn’t take advantage, but shortly after in the 23rd minute, Isaah Yeo was celebrating his 2nd straight home-game try. Cleary hit the upright which left the score at 16-4.
The Friday feast continued in the 28th minute when Bryce Cartwright’s inside ball put Reagan Campbell-Gillard over, ensuring the lead went out to 22-4 once Cleary converted with ease.
Just before the break, Peter Wallace scurried his way through the defence to score a hard-fought try under the posts. Cleary converted and the halftime hooter sounded, leaving the Tigers with a lot to contemplate in the break.
Halftime: Panthers 28 Tigers 4
The Panthers stamped their paws all over the Tigers in the first half, but the Tigers gave an impression they might claw their way back with some threatening plays in their first few sets.
However, it was Penrith who struck first through club-favourite Trent Merrin in the 48th minute. Merrin’s line put himself into a hole and he spun out of the defence to score beside the left upright. Cleary converted to send the lead out to 34-4.
Jordan Rankin was having a horror night at the back filling in for regular fullback James Tedesco, dropping his 3rd catch of the night to again hand Penrith quality field position.
In the 56thnd minute, Penrith extended their lead when James Fisher-Harris bowled his way through the Tigers to secure another four points. Cleary was pin-point, making it a 40-4 ball game.
Mitchel Moses broke the line in the 62nd minute, pegging some points back for his side as the game entered its final 15 minutes. The five-eighths conversion mean he single-handedly brought it back to 40-10.
Some handy efforts in defence from Penrith kept the score line where it was, with the visitors unable to find a way back. The 30-point win means another good boost for the for and against record as the sides around the bottom of the eight scramble to take a finals spot. Although Penrith’s, more than likely looks secured.
Fulltime: Panthers 40 Tigers 10