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Brooks inspires Tigers to drought breaking win against Panthers

A five star performance by Luke Brooks inspired Wests Tigers to a gutsy 12-8 defeat of back-to-back premiers Penrith that ended a 273-day drought since their last win.

Brooks led last season's wooden spooners to their first win under the club's new coaching staff of 2005 premiership winning mentor Tim Sheens, David Furner and Tigers greats Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah.

The often maligned halfback produced two 40:20 kicks that led to tries, ran the ball 10 times for 69 metres and finished with a try assist and six line breaks as the Tigers claimed the Royce Simmons Cup in wet conditions before a capacity Bathurst crowd. 

The Wests Tigers win!

Tigers captain Api Koroisau, who played in Penrith's 2021 and 2022 grand final triumphs, also starred against his former club, while rookie fullback Jahream Bula had a game to remember.  

Brooks got his team on the front foot from the outset with a 40:20 kick in the first set of tackles in the match.

Brooks boots a 40/20

Brooks then laid on the opening try of the match for Fiji playmaker Brandon Wakeham, who swooped on a perfectly weighted grubber into the Panthers in-goal from his halves partner to score in the third minute.

Former Tiger Tyrone Peachey, who returned to Penrith in the off-season, hit back for the premiers just two minutes later to score off a Jarome Luai grubber kick.

The Tigers then had to endure the sinbinning of centre Brent Naden after a shoulder charge on Panthers second-rower Zac Hosking but they did not concede a point while a man short.

Naden binned for a shoulder charge

Samoa World Cup hero Stephen Crichton put Penrith ahead 8-6 with a 30th minute penalty goal but Wakeham levelled the scores with a penalty goal of his own just on halftime. 

Brooks started the second half as he had the first, by producing a second 40:20 kick as the Tigers continued to mount pressure on Penrith.

Brooks kicks another 40/20

David Nofoaluma regained the lead for Wests Tigers when he crossed in the 50th minute after Wakeham combined with rookie fullback Jahream Bula, who threw an overhead pass for the veteran winger. 

However, Wakeham was unable to convert and the Tigers were forced to cling to a four point lead.

Try number 100 for Nofoaluma!

A try saving tackle by Bula jolted the ball from the grasp of Panthers superstar Nathan Cleary and he produced a deft grubber at the other end before trapping Dylan Edwards behind his line and force a goal line drop out.

The Panthers were forced to play 10 minutes late in the game a man down after hooker Soni Luke was sin-binned for a hip drop tackle on Tigers prop Alex Twal.

Wakeham missed an attempt at goal from the penalty that would have given the Tigers a six point lead but they hung on to achieve their first win of the season.

Match snapshot

  • Centre Brent Naden became the first Wests Tigers players sinbinned this season after a shoulder charge on Panthers second-rower Zac Hosking.
  • The Panthers conceded seven first half errors, while the Tigers completed at 90 per cent in the wet and slippery conditions.
  • Tigers winger David Nofoaluma scored his 100th NRL try in the 50th minute to regain the lead for his side.
  • The game was played in heavy rain at Bathurt's Carrington Park and the Tigers adopted a simple, low risk game plan, making just five off-loads.
  • David Klemmer carried the ball for 209 metres and fellow Tigers forwards Isaiah Papali'i (106m), Alex Twal (173m), Stefano Utoikamanu (133m) and Joe Ofahengaue (119m) all ran more than 100 metres with the ball.
  • The Tigers completed 38 of their 42 sets, compared to Penrith's 30 completions from 39 sets.
  • Brooks and Wakeham forced four goal line drop-outs, while the Panthers had none.

Play of the game

Rookie fullback Jahream Bula was playing just his second NRL match but the former basketballer appears set to be a star of the future after being safe under the high ball, running 102 metres and producing a try assist.

However, it was his second half tackle on Nathan Cleary that stopped the Penrith, NSW and Australian halfback just short of the tryline and forced the ball loose that was the highlight of his performance.

Brilliant Bula foils Cleary inches short

What they said

"Credit to the opposition, they played better so they deserved to win. We didn't play real smart tonight and just came up with bad football too often, I reckon. It is very disappointing, we definitely feel like we added to the loss ourselves tonight. It was a bad start, they were up 6-0 before we touched the ball. When Nado went off to the bin we were awful, that was a real disappointment. We just didn't quite get it right either after that." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.

Panthers: Round 9

"It wasn't just a win, it's a really good win and I didn't think we did anything to not deserve it. There was no luck, we worked really, really hard. Playing a Cleary-led Penrith side and beating them today is a great effort from the team. I am really pleased for everyone, the coaching staff - Benji, David and Robbie. Our State Cup team won as well so it's been a big effort from the club." - Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens.

Wests Tigers: Round 9

What's next

Penrith take on the Warriors at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night in Magic Round.

The Panthers lost forward Matthew Eisenhuth early in the match against the Tigers with a shoulder injury, while interchange hooker Soni Luke was placed on report and sinbinned for a hip drop tackle.

Luke sent to sin bin

Wests Tigers meet the Dragons next Sunday at Suncorp Stadium and will be sweating on the match review committee's verdict about the first half incident which resulted in Brent Naden being sinbinned for a shoulder charge. 


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.