By Stewart Moses
Penrith have ended the unbeaten start to the season of Mounties with a convincing 32-16 win over a Mounties side that were gallant but ultimately outclassed by a side stacked with NRL experience at Sportingbet Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Penrith were bolstered by the late inclusion of Tyrone Peachey which saw Matt Robinson revert back to the bench, while conversely Mounties were hampered with some late changes with Sami Sauiluma, Kyle O’Donnell and Matt Mcillwrick all withdrawn from the originally named line-up.
Penrith settled into their rhythm quickly to be rewarded with the opening try after just 6 minutes when an Isaac John cross field kick found his winger Eto Nabuli out-leaping Gus Aiga to score in the left corner and with the sideline conversion by Wes Naiqama, the Panthers led 6-0.
Despite having the better of possession and territory along with a favourable penalty count from referee Daniel Orford, Penrith’s inability to control the ball combined with some stern resistance in defence from Mounties kept the Panthers scoreless.
Eventually that resistance was worn down as Penrith scored three quick tries in the 10 minutes leading into half time.
Isaac John was involved in all three tries with his pinpoint kicking game leading to tries to Nathan Smith and Kevin Naiqama (2).
All three tries came from the boot of Isaac John with the last of those tries coming from a wonderful piece of play as Wes Naiqama had the presence of mind to bat back a midfield bomb 20m out to Will Smith who then turned the Mounties defence inside out putting Kevin Naiqama on a run to score in the right corner, to give Penrith a commanding half time 20-0 lead.
Mounties started the second half the better and they were able to open their account in the 50th minute when a backline movement out on the left fringes from 40m out ended with fullback Joe Bond scoring in the left corner.
The kick was unsuccessful but Mounties were back in the game trailing 20-4.
From there the game meandered along without any great highlights as both teams were guilty of poor options when in attack. However it was Mounties who again scored after a Cornish kick was taken by Bond to score his second close to the posts and Cornish’s conversion reduced the margin to 10 at 20-10 with 11 minutes remaining.
Penrith finally sparked into action again in the last 10 minutes of the half scoring back to back tries. The first setup again by Isaac John this time from a cut out pass to that man Kevin Naiqama who scored from close range to notch up his hat-trick.
The second was an individual try to Tyrone Peachey who scorched a tiring Mounties defence on a 60m run to the try line to give Penrith a 32-10 lead.
To Mounties credit, they played out the 80 minutes scoring a late consolation try through Jeremy Hawkins off a Gus Aiga bat back from Cornish’s cross field kick.
Cornish converted on the bell from the sideline for the final scoreline of 32-16 in favour of Penrith and in the process ending Mounties’ unbeaten start to the season, while Penrith have now won three on the trot.
Next Saturday sees Penrith once again play host at Sportingbet Stadium in a western Sydney derby clash with the Wests Tigers while Mounties travel to Canberra to play Newcastle.
Penrith Panthers 32 (K Naiqama 3, E Nabuli, T Peachey, N Smith tries; W Naiqama 4 goals) def. Mounties 16 (J Bond 2, J Hawkins tries; M Cornish 2 goals) at Sportingbet Stadium.