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The Panthers proved too strong for the Rabbitohs in the grand final re-match to continue their unbeaten start to the season with a 26-12 win at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.

With star playmaker and co-captain Nathan Cleary playing his first match since last year's grand final after undergoing a shoulder reconstruction and James Fisher-Harris and Liam Martin returning from injury, the premiers got off to a flying start and were never headed.

It was a high quality contest but Penrith's scrambling defence repeatedly denied Souths, with fullback Dylan Edwards involved in a number of try-saving tackles.

Edwards also ran 289 metres in 26 carries of the ball, while two-try hero Taylan May (204m), fellow winger Charlie Staines (162m) and centres Stephen Crichton (190m) and Izack Tago (145m) were all heavily involved.

The Rabbitohs completed just 25 of 39 sets of possession, compared to 36 of 42 by the Panthers and the home team made them pay as they continued their unbeaten run at BlueBet since round 19, 2019. 

Match snapshot

  • The match started at a frantic pace with Penrith centre Izack Tago scoring in just the second minute after Jarome Luai got around Latrell Mitchell and passed to his rookie team-mate.
  • Fellow Panthers centre finished a movement on the other side of the field in the 11th minute after the quick hands of Isaah Yeo, Nathan Cleary and Dylan Edwards created an overlap for the grand final hero.

Crichton gets in on the act now

  • Souths centre Campbell Graham got his side back in the game when he sliced between Tago and his left edge wing partner Taylan May to score in the 15th minute.
  • May made amends just three minutes later when he scored in the corner after Viliame Kikau held up a pass near the Rabbitohs line. The try followed a dropped ball by Souths second-rower Keaon Koloamatangi in the set after the kick-off.

Graham slices through to for Souths

  • Rookie Rabbitohs halfback Lachlan Ilias appeared to have levelled the scores when he stepped past Isaah Yeo and James Fisher-Harris to score but the try was disallowed because of an obstruction call against Tom Burgess.
  • Back-to-back trysaving tackles by Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards on Taane Milne and Cameron Murray ensured the premiers went to halftime with a 12-6 lead.  

The Panthers scramble to stop Milne

  • Taylan May scored his second try in the 49th minute after another display of quick hands by the Panthers on the last tackle and the Panthers received an eight-point try after May copped the boot from Lachlan Ilias in the face as he dived across the line.
  • Just as he did in the grand final, Cody Walker hit back for the Rabbitohs after starting and finishing a 62nd minute movement in which he linked with Taane Milne and Alex Johnston before backing up on the inside to score.

South Sydney's lethal left kicks into gear

  • Liam Martin secured the win in the 70th minute when he pounced on a grubber kick from Jarome Luai, who had stepped out of the tackle of Lachlan Ilias.

Quick thinking from Luai provides for Martin

Play of the game

Taylan May's second try in the 49th minute was the result of quick hands by Panthers playmakers Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai to get the ball to strike second-rower Viliame Kikau but the rookie winger still had a lot of work to do himself. Receiving the pass from Kikau near the Rabbitohs line after the Panthers decided to run the ball on the last tackle, May pushed off Campbell Graham and ducked under the attempted tackle of Latrell Mitchell. With Penrith awarded an eight-point try after May was struck in the face by the boot of Lachlan Ilias, the try enabled them to take a 20-6 lead.

Taylan May shows his finishing prowess

What they said

"I thought it was a good night and good game for our community. I thought we started pretty well and Souths came us pretty hard tonight. I thought heaps pretty good actually. It’s always hard to play after a long stint out, especially of this magnitude. He should get better. First half I thought we looked really good. It was a bit of a shootout there. I thought both sides were looking pretty good. I thought our defence wasn’t where it needed to be but we scrambled pretty well.
We’ve played some good teams and had some good wins. It’s early days but we’ll take it": Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.

Penrith Panthers

"The start of the second half we started pretty well but then came up with a poor error in good ball. The decision when Lachy llias's try got pulled back hurt us a little bit. At the moment we're a team who is chasing when we're behind. We're not comfortable being behind a try behind. I feel like we're chasing points and doing things we shouldn't be doing. We've lost three games and all three we've had a 63% completion rate. We're not going to be at the top end of where we want to be if we don't tidy that up": Souths coach Jason Demetriou.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

What's next 

The Panthers meet the Bulldogs at CommBank Stadium next Sunday night, while the Rabbitohs host the Dragons on Saturday night at Accor Stadium.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary should have Sean O'Sullivan (foot) available but it remains to be seen how he will use him after Nathan Cleary made a successful return at halfback against Souths.

Latrell Mitchell checks on the condition of a woman hit by the ball
Latrell Mitchell checks on the condition of a woman hit by the ball ©David Hossack/NRL Photos

Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou is likely to need to find a replacement for prop Mark Nicholls after he limped from the field in just the second minute with a high ankle sprain.

Centre Jaxson Paulo also failed to finish the match after suffering a head knock and will have to follow the HIA protocols before being cleared to play.

Rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias was placed on report after striking Taylan May in the face with his boot as he tried to stop the Penrith winger scoring his second try. 


Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.