St George Illawarra Dragons defeated a rusty Penrith Panthers outfit 42-10 at a wet and windy UOW Jubilee Oval on Saturday.
A penalty the way of the Dragons paved the way for the first points of the game after 4 minutes. Joel Thompson charged on to a short ball out of dummy half and barged his way through the line before Widdop slotted in the extras to make it 6-0.
The Panthers nearly responded immediately through Waqa Blake. Matt Moylan swooped on a loose ball before some quick passing looked to have put Blake in space but the centre wasn’t able to maintain possession as the ground opened up.
Another Panthers error after 24 minutes gifted the Dragons a fresh set on the attack, allowing the hosts to double their lead. A sweeping move to the left edge ended in another try for Thompson, which Widdop would convert.
That try temporarily awoke the visitors and they responded with their own effort on the half hour mark.
Peter Wallace released Te Maire Martin down the right flank as he produced a miraculous pass to Blake to finish off the move with a flamboyant, diving effort. Wallace’s conversion was waved away and scores remained 12-4.
The home side quickly defused any momentum the guests were building thanks to Jack de Belin’s solo effort just shy of half time. The lock sliced through the Panthers defence and planted the ball underneath the black dot. Widdop’s conversion was successful as the home side went in to the break leading 18-4.
HALFTIME: Dragons 18 – 4 Penrith Panthers
Dragons skipper Widdop continued to lead the way following the restart as he latched on to an inside kick from Josh McCrone. With the defence drifting to the outside, McCrone curled a kick back inside in to open space for Widdop to race through ahead of two defenders and extend the lead out to 20 points following his conversion.
The Panthers needed a response soon and found it through Tyrone Peachey in the 50th minute.
Up tempo passing and some quick hands led to Peachey receiving the ball 10 metres out and he added the finishing touch in the corner. Nathan Cleary took over kicking duties and managed to squeeze his conversion in to cut the lead back to 24-10.
Cleary nearly further reduced the margin the very next set in possession but had the ball kicked out of his hands according to the video referee and had to make do with a penalty.
Instead, the home side would turn defence to attack and regained their 20 point advantage after 55 minutes. Josh Dugan bumped away from a Cartwright tackle and kicked through for himself to regather before linking with McCrone who played in Cameron McInnes. Widdop’s boot helped the hosts push out to 30-10.
By now the Dragons were in a mood and forced yet another error from their opponents which fell kindly to the hands of Widdop to cross over again, eventually converting his own try to make it 36-10.
Thompson crossed over for his third of the game ten minutes from full time. Widdop maintained his perfect record with the boot as the lead stretched out to 42-10.
FULLTIME: Dragons 42 – 10 Penrith Panthers