The Panthers have cemented their top four position in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW with a tough 17-10 win over North Sydney Bears at North Sydney Oval on Friday.
Tries to Liam Martin, Wayde Egan and Maiko Sivo helped the Panthers overcome a lopsided penalty count in favour of the Bears to seal victory.
Viliame Kikau was a late addition to the side after his withdrawal from the NRL squad but he would endure a nightmare start after being sin-binned by referee Kasey Badger in the 13th minute. A fumble on halfway from the prop put the Bears on the front foot, before compounding his error by being sent from the field for backchat after conceding a penalty.
Another sin-binning - this time to the Bears - would level the playing field and allow the Panthers to open the scoring through Egan in the 20th minute. The hooker repeated his antics from a week ago, catching the defence off-guard and reaching over from close range. Darren Nicholls slotted the conversion to make it 6-0.
A host of penalties to the Bears would allow them to open their account through Eli Levido after 25 minutes. An awkward bounce from a grubber allowed Levido to race through and reclaim possession to score next to the uprights.
He would convert his own try to level the game at 6-6. It was déjà vu for Kikau after the half hour mark when he was given his marching orders for a second time, on this occasion striking his opponent who laid on top of him in the play-the-ball.
By the time the teams headed to the sheds, referee Kasey Badger had blown 14 penalties.
HALFTIME - North Sydney Bears 6 – 6 Penrith Panthers
The theme continued after the break with another penalty giving the home side a passage to the try line. Levido received the ball in space on the left edge and jinked his way through the defence to grab his second and give his side the lead. His conversion sailed wide, keeping the score at 10-6.
A plethora of penalties to the home side afforded them multiple opportunities to stretch their lead but it would be the visitors who struck next through Maiko Sivo on the hour mark. An error fell kindly to the winger who wrestled free of the defence and skipped away to dive over out wide. Nicholls' conversion struck the upright and bounced out as the score remained 10-all.
Nicholls would eventually hand his side the lead with five minutes remaining in the contest courtesy of a field goal, before setting up the match-winner for Martin in the 76th minute. The halfback decided to run the ball on the last and sliced through the Bears defence before finding Martin in support on the inside to seal victory. His successful conversion added icing on the cake as the Panthers ran out 17-10 winners.
FULLTIME - North Sydney Bears 10 – 17 Penrith Panthers