Penrith’s mid-season resurgence continues after a dominant second half performance saw the Panthers storm to a convincing 42-24 win despite the atrocious weather conditions at a rain-sodden Leichhardt Oval.
Penrith outscored the Wests Tigers 24-8 in the second half but it was their ability to lead 18-16 at halftime despite running into a gale-force wind that set the platform for the Panthers’ best win of the season to date.
There was plenty of intrigue leading into the game as to whether dumped NRL hooker James Segeyaro would take his place in the starting line-up but was ruled out just before kick-off, leaving the originally named rake, Sione Katoa to not only start the game but put in a starring performance, while Josh Hall’s star continues to grow after accumulating 18 points from a try and a perfect afternoon with the boot kicking seven from seven, despite the trying conditions.
Both sides bore little resemblance to the teams announced during the week but it was the Panthers who struck first after an error from the Tigers opening set of the game, when Moses Leota crashed over off a flat pass from Katoa.
Penrith doubled their lead soon after, when Katoa grubbered in the goal for Tyrone May to score in just his second game at this level.
But the Tigers sprung into life midway through the first half scoring three unanswered tries to lead 16-12 with half-time fast approaching, after replacement winger Jayden Wheelhouse scored a double in quick succession before Watson Heleta scored after Justin Hunt outleapt Penrith winger Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to put the centre in for the try.
The Panthers has other ideas though and regained the lead on the stroke of halftime when that man Katoa laid on a short pass for Brendon Attwood to storm onto from close range that with Hall’s conversion, allowed the visitors to head to the sheds in front 18-16.
After a tight first half, it was all Penrith in the second as they capitalised on the conditions, controlling possession and territory.
Tries to Hall and Leota (his second for the match) saw the Panthers scoot out to a 30-16 lead early in the second half as the Tigers began to feel the effects of losing Wheelhouse for the match after a sickening yet legitimate clash with man-mountain Viliame Kikau on contesting a mid-air bomb that saw the winger stretchered from the field.
A try to Esan Marsters off a Jack Littlejohn grubber-kick momentarily stemmed the flow of points before Will Smith and George Jennings scored two brilliant tries for the Panthers that pushed out to 42-20 and with over ten minutes remaining the visitors looked on track to score fifty.
But the Tigers regrouped and their efforts in the closing minutes were rewarded with a try to Chance Peni with the last play of the day that saw the match ultimately finish in favour of Penrith 42-24.
Penrith have now won back-to-back wins as they maintain a position just inside the eight while the Tigers’ slide down the table continues having now been consigned to back-to-back losses.
Next Saturday the Panthers will be gunning for three wins in a row for the first time in 2016 when return home to take on Manly while the Tigers will be looking to regroup and get their season back on track when they travel to WIN Stadium to take on the Illawarra Cutters.