By Nathan Beuman at Sportingbet Stadium
The Penrith Panthers have shown that they are the team to beat in 2014, extending their unbeaten run now to six games with a 32-24 win over the Wyong Roos at Sportingbet Stadium.
Despite a late flurry of points to the visitors, a double each to Penrith wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Eto Nabuli was just too much for the Roos to overcome.
The game was barely three minutes old when Penrith hooker Kierran Moseley went straight through the Wyong defence, before getting a pass away to Matt Robinson, who slammed the ball down to the right of the uprights, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead following Wes Naiqama’s conversion.
Just like with their first try, the Panthers were able to capitalise on a repeat set, spreading the ball out to the right early in the tackle count, before a Tom Humble cutout pass had Watene-Zelezniak in for his first of the afternoon.
Wes Naiqama was unable to extend the Panthers lead out to two converted tries, with the kick from the sideline sailing wide right, leaving the score at 10-0 after 14 minutes.
Wyong were quick to respond though, crossing for two tries in the space of the three minutes, with one each to Tekina Vailea and Bennett Leslie, leveling the scores up at 10 a piece after 27 minutes.
Just when it looked like the Roos were about to run in another four pointer, Panthers fullback Kieran Moss swopped on a poorly executed grubber kick, before running 90 metres up field to score at the other end of the park.
Naiqama’s conversion was again waved away, leaving the score at 14-10 with ten minutes remaining before half time.
Poor discipline cost Wyong just before the break, with back-to-back penalties giving Will Smith an opportunity to extend Penrith’s lead to 16-10 heading into the sheds.
The Panthers came out firing to start the second half, with Eto Nabuli crossing twice in the space of three minutes to grab a 26-10 lead just five minutes into the second stanza, as the Penrith big men continued to dominate up front.
Penrith weren’t finished with just yet though, as an unlikely grubber kick from Nathan Smith caught Wyong off guard, before Watene-Zelezniak managed to somehow get the ball down next to the corner post in a try that only he could score.
Will Smith had no trouble with the conversion from the sideline, extending the Panthers lead out to 32-10.
Tries to Jono Ford and Dale Clacherty in quick succession had the Roos back in the game at 32-18 with just under 15 minutes remaining, but poor goal kicking ended up costing the visitors down the stretch.
Wyong managed to bag a late try when Brock Molan sliced through the Panthers defence, before scoring under the posts to bring the Roos to within 8 points following the conversion from Mark Kheirallah.
This weekend, the Panthers will be at home once again when they host the Cutters while the Roos head to Brookvale Oval on Saturday in a must win match for both sides finals chances.
Penrith Panthers 32 (E Nabuli 2, D Watene Zelezniak 2, M Robinson, K Moseley tries; W Smith 3, W Naiqama goals) def. Wyong Roos 24 (D Clacherty, B Molan, J Ford, B Leslie, T Vailea tries; M Kheirallah 2 goals) at Sportingbet Stadium.