Highlights: Magpies v Panthers
A star-studded Wentworthville backline failed to make an impact as Penrith maintained second spot on the ladder with another impressive performance to win 16-4, in a game that didn’t reach any great heights given the extremely windy conditions.
Once again, Penrith’s game plan was unspectacular but effective as the Panthers got to their kick with far more regularity than their opponents and their defence, the best in the NSW Cup, frustrated the Magpies into repeated errors.
Penrith’s team, forced to play players out of position for the second consecutive week after losing the likes of Ben Murdoch-Masila (high ankle sprain), Robert Jennings and Sione Katoa (Holden Cup) from their last start win over Mounties, were given a timely boost with the late inclusion of Will Smith.
Wentworthville by comparison came into the game with all but Ben Crooks in the backs plus Pauli Pauli, Cody Nelson and Taniela Lasalo in the forwards all having NRL experience and would have fancied their chances against their largely inexperienced opponents.
Wentworthville dominated possession in the opening exchanges but Penrith weathered the storm before they opened the scoring in the 19th minute. A shift right inside the Magpies’ 20, saw makeshift fullback Tom Eisenhuth throw a sublime cut out pass to Eddie Aiono, and the winger did the rest to dive over in the corner to give Penrith a 4-0 lead.
Wentworthville levelled the scores four minutes later, after a penalty gave the Magpies good field position in attack. A sweeping play put John Folau in open space to score in the left corner but Luke Kelly was unable to convert from the sideline.
Errors continued to creep into Wentworthville’s game and the Panthers built up pressure inside the Magpies’ 20 before they regained the lead in the 29th minute. Wellington Albert attacked the line five meters out before providing a back-handed flick pass that was taken by Josh Tangitau and the hooker scored under the posts to register his first NSW Cup try. Will Smith’s simple conversion saw Penrith lead 10-4.
Penrith could have extended their lead late in the first half but a grubber kick regathered underneath the posts by Will Smith to score, was correctly ruled to be offside by referee Daniel Olford.
Penrith steadied and extended the lead in the 51st minute when a clever decoy play drew in the Magpies’ outside backs, allowing Will Smith to provide the long flat pass for Nu’u Akeripa to steam onto and score from close range. The surprise-packet acquisition for Penrith in 2015 improved the position for goal-kicker Will Smith to convert giving Penrith a commanding 16-4 lead.
Wentworthville’s coach Brett Cook would have been left frustrated by a performance that continued to deteriorate in the second half with countless errors, despite the half-chances the Magpies created for themselves. It was no surprise to see those frustrations rise to the surface when a melee threatened to erupt midway through the second half before interchange forward Fred Pakutoa was placed on report for a high tackle on Sam Scarlett two sets later.
Penrith went on to secure their fifth win in a row and kept their opponents scoreless in the second half for the third time in four weeks but may have paid a price for the win with Nu’u Akeripa, Josh Tangitau, Sam Scarlett and Tupou Sopoaga all forced from the field with injury.
Penrith next take on North Sydney at North Sydney Oval this Saturday at 3pm while Wentworthville will play the New Zealand Warriors at Pirtek Stadium, also this Saturday with the early 12:40pm kick-off time.
Penrith 16 (E Aiono, J Tangitau, N Akeripa tries; W Smith 2 goals) bt Wentworthville 4 (J Folau try)