Penrith have put the disappointment of last week’s shock loss to lowly Wentworthville behind them, holding-off a fast finishing North Sydney Bears to record an invaluable 34-22 win at North Sydney Oval this afternoon.
The Panthers led by the surprise inclusion of Tyrone Peachey and the ever-improving powerhouse front-rower Viliame Kikau, took advantage of early ill-discipline and numerous errors from the home side to open up a 22-0 lead.
But despite a second half comeback from the Bears, they were just unable to peg back that early lead before a late 85 metre try to Josh Hall sealed the win for the Mountain Men.
In fact, apart from two tries, Hall also bagged five goals from six attempts for a personal haul of 18 points, which once again shows why the former AFL player is considered a strong chance to finish the season as the competition’s top points scorer having already amassed 132 points to date.
An error in the opening set, enabled Penrith to apply early pressure and open the scoring though Kikau in just the 6th minute when the prop stormed his way through the Bears goal-line defence to score from close range.
The Bears having not seen any possession after their opening set error, trailed by 12 two minutes later when Kikau turned provider, with a strong run that had the North Sydney defence at sixers and sevens before providing a peach of an offload to Peachey.
Fullback Andrew Heffernan, playing in his first game since Round 11, laid on Penrith’s third try inside the opening 20 minutes of the game with a cut-out pass for Hall to score in the corner before the fullback joined the score-sheet seven minutes courtesy of a well-weighted grubber from Peachey into the Bears in-goal ad at 22-0 the score could have been anything for Penrith.
The Bears having made several errors and conceded the opening five penalties finally received one of their own just before the half-hour mark and it had instant effect with the home side scoring back-to-back tries to reduce the gap to ten with half-time closing in.
The first try came when Dane Nielsen finished off a neat shift left, with a powerful burst to score in the left corner, converted in spectacular fashion from half Eli Levido.
Minutes later a powerful run from interchange forward George Burgess, playing in his first game back from injury, stretched the Panthers defence that allowed hooker Bradley Deitz to capitalise on, burrowing his way over from the play the ball to score.
But just as the Bears were beginning to gain ascendency, the Panthers scored with the last play of the half to push the score out to 28-12 after Zach Dockar-Clay’s burst through the middle from 30 metres out enabled Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to score behind the posts.
If it was all Penrith in the first half, it was almost certainly all North Sydney in the second half as the Bears returned out onto the field with much greater intensity.
They were rewarded with an early second half try when Nielsen scored his second for the game, finishing off a well-worked movement off a scrum win 10m out from the Panthers line, to reduce the lead to twelve.
The Panthers having played a virtually error-free first half, were suddenly making mistakes at will throughout the second half, inviting the Bears to continue their comeback, which they did when a 40-20 kick in the 65th minute enabled North Sydney to score from the ensuing set.
Centre Latrell Robinson shrugged off some feeble outside defence to score out wide and with another Levido conversion from just inside the sideline, the Bears were right back in the game trailing 28-22 but had all the momentum.
The Bears continued to dominate possession and territory and looked likely to score after forcing an error from Peachey coming of his own line, a loose pass was swooped upon by Hall to streak 85 metres and score the only points of the second half for the visitors, breaking the hearts of the home crowd in the process.
The Panthers now return home next Sunday when they take on the high-flying Illawarra Cutters while on the same day the North Sydney Bears are again at home when they host the Newtown Jets.