By Jamie Anderson
The Penrith Panthers are just one win away from claiming the 2014 VB NSW Cup title after disposing of the Wentworthville Magpies 31-12 at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
Most pundits’ pre-season favourites, the Panthers haven’t disappointed in 2014, winning 22 of their last 24 matches and will certainly start the bookmakers’ favourites come kick off on Sunday at Allianz Stadium.
It wasn’t an ideal start for the men from the foot of the mountains though when they kicked the ball out on the full at the beginning of the match but they quickly regrouped to post the first points of.
A Kevin Kingston break lead to an offload to a supporting Ryan Simpkins who sprinted clear to score under the posts, and with the resulting Wes Naiqama conversion, the Panthers lead it 6-0.
But the scores were locked up in the 11th minute after Wenty broke the Panthers line following a series of repeat sets. A shift to the right found Toutai who did well to control the ball enough to move it on to Jake Butler Fleming who scored out wide.
Things looked to be going Wenty’s way as they were dominating possession and position off the back of some penalties and also so poor control from Penrith. As a result, in the 22nd minute the underdogs took the lead thanks to Danny Howard who capped off a determined run to dot down under the black dot.
Penrith were being very un-Penrith like for large parts of the first half and continued to trail right up until seconds before the half time siren when they fed a scrum from inside their own half and Capewell took off down the short side and found Yeo who in turn promoted the ball to a flying Kevin Naiqama and that was the end of the section. Tom Humble converted the try and the score was locked up at 12 apiece at the break.
Whatever Garth Brennan said to his troops at half time appeared to have the desired affect though as the Panthers completely dominated the second forty minutes, outscoring their opponents 19-0.
Early tries to Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Kieran Moss saw the Panthers shoot out to an early 24-12 lead but in the 57th minute the Panthers broke the Magpies spirit with what was probably the try of the game.
Man of the match Waqa Blake made a lovely break and handed off to Wes Naiqama who raced down field before turning it inside to Kingston who loomed in support and then he unselfishly handed it off to a flying Capewell who scored a great team try under the posts.
Tom Humble had the last say on the match when he slotted a field goal with just under ten minutes remaining to extend the Panthers lead to 19.
The Magpies tried hard on the day but were ultimately outclassed by a side that had the luxury of calling upon the likes of Kevin Kingston, David Simmons and Isaah Yeo.
The Panthers will now take on the Newcastle Knights this Sunday at Allianz Stadium for the right to not only hold aloft the 2014 VB NSW Cup trophy, but also for the right to represent the competition the following week in the inaugural NRL State Championship at ANZ Stadium.
Penrith Panthers 31 (R Simpkins, R Campbell-Gillard, K Moss, L Capewell, K Naiqama tries; W Naiqama 3, T Humble 2 goals; T Humble field goal) def. Wentworthville Magpies 12 (D Howard, J Butler-Fleming tries; L Kelly 2 goals) at Leichhardt Oval.