The Tigers have staved off a determined Penrith outfit to maintain their spot in the top four with just three rounds remaining, with a win at Pepper Stadium today.
Having missed last week’s game through injury, Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah proved to be the difference between the two sides, scoring one try and having a hand in two others, while Te Maire Martin’s comeback for Penrith continued to gather momentum, getting far more involved in his second game back from his shoulder injury.
Both sides started brightly but it was Tigers who came closest to opening the scoring when a Matthew Eisenhuth offload against his former club enabled Farah to put through a grubber into Penrith’s in-goal with the outside backs caught out of position only for the ball to elude Chance Peni to go dead-in goal.
Josh Hall had Penrith’s best chance to open the scoring when he burst through the line from halfway but was taken in a one-on-one tackle by Watson Heleta and the opportunity was lost.
Penrith continued to dominate possession and territory but had no points to show for it as errors began to creep into their game, albeit aided by some strong defence from the Tigers.
The Panthers were made to pay for their inability to convert pressure into points when a rare foray deep in Panthers territory enabled Farah to drift across the line before finding Griffin with a short pass and the back-rower crashed over to score from close range and with Hunt’s conversion the Tigers led 6-0 after 30 minutes.
The Panthers looked to hit back five minutes later but the vision of Martin wasn’t matched by his execution when his long cut-out pass close to the line to an unmarked Hall was ruled forward.
But the pressure of defending consecutive sets inside their own half proved telling as the Panthers eventually opened their scoring on the stroke of half-time when hooker Zach Dockar-Clay drifted in-field finding Atonio Pelesasa cutting back towards the ruck to crash over and with Hall’s conversion, scores were locked up at the break.
The Panthers may have finished the half the stronger but two moments of brilliance in the opening two sets after half-time from Farah, enabled the Tigers to regain a six-point lead, when the hooker burrowed over from dummy half, having made a telling line-break a set earlier that gave his team good attacking position.
The Tigers could have gone further in-front when Farah laid on another short pass only for Dallas Graham to lose the ball short of the line.
The Panthers capitalised on the Tigers misfortune again levelling the scores when Te Maire Martin found his halves partner Andrew Heffernan, who stepped back inside several defenders to score under the posts in the 55th minute.
But the see-sawing nature of this game continued when the Tigers yet again regained the lead midway through the second half when Manaia Cherrington at dummy half, put on a show and go, fooling the Panthers marker defence to stroll over from close range and with Hunt’s conversion led 18-12.
The Tigers took a decisive ten-point lead with seven minutes remaining when Farah on the last opted to shift play right where back-rower Curtis Sironen shrugged off George Jennings and Dylan Edwards to crash over out wide for the unconverted try.
A grandstand finish was on the cards when Penrith with just two minutes remaining closed the gap to just four points after Heffernan and Kade Ellis combined to put Dockar-Clay over from close range.
But the visitors breathed a huge sigh of relief to claim the two competition points after Penrith were unable to convert one final opportunity to score the potential match-winning try when the ball was lost from the scrum win 10 metres out from the Tigers try-line.
The win enables the Tigers to stay in fourth position just ahead of the Newtown Jets, while the Panthers’ third loss in succession now sees them in a real battle to hold their spot in the top eight.
Next Saturday, the Wests Tigers will return to Campbelltown Stadium when they host the Wentworthville Magpies while the Panthers will play Wyong Roos at St Marys Stadium.