The ISP Panthers have sealed a 28-6 win over Illawarra courtesy of a polished performance in tough conditions at UOW Jubilee Oval.
An Illawarra error inside their own half presented the Panthers with prime field position and Mitch Rein took full advantage after 10 minutes. The hooker scooted out of dummy half and drew the attention of the defence before feeding Viliame Kikau who bundled his way over next to the posts. Nicholls added the extras to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers would return the favour after 19 minutes. An error inside their own 20 metre line gifted possession to Illawarra who duly converted through Jacob Hind. Shaun Nona converted to level the scores at a 6-all.
Sustained Panthers pressure courtesy of repeat penalties close to Illawarra’s line would allow them to regain the lead on the half hour mark. The ball shifted left to Corey Harawira-Naera who held off his opposite man before offloading for Jed Cartwright to cross over. Nicholls’ conversion was successful to give Penrith a 12-6 lead.
The lead stretched out to ten two minutes from half time. An overlap developed on the right edge when Michael Oldfield attracted two defenders before finding Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to fly through and plant it in the corner. The conversion sailed wide as the players went in to the break with the score at 16-6.
HALFTIME: Illawarra 6 – 16 Penrith Panthers
Penrith resumed where they left off from the first half as they continued to build pressure resulting in some desperate Illawarra defence conceding a penalty. Nicholls elected to take the shot at goal and push the lead out to 12 points after 48 minutes.
Illawarra tried to muster a comeback with multiple sets on the Panthers line but the defence refused to budge, swatting away wave after wave of attack.
Penrith would get their reward in attack on 74 minutes after being forced to defend for the majority of the second half. Watene-Zelezniak was brought down after a line break on half way before a quick play the ball allowed Tyrone May to dart through and score. Nicholls’ conversion struck the upright to keep the score at 22-6.
The Panthers would wrap up an impressive victory two minutes from full time. Samisoni Langi pounced on a loose ball close to the line before Nicholls added the extras and hand the Panthers an emphatic 28-6 win in trying conditions.
FULLTIME: Illawarra 6 – 28 Penrith Panthers