The Wyong Roos have bounced past Penrith and into sixth spot after withstanding a late Panthers comeback to record a vital 22-16 win at St Marys Stadium today.
The win sees Wyong move ahead of Penrith to go to 26 competition points and continue their recent dominance over the Panthers with their fifth straight win over the Mountain Men.
There were plenty of eyes on Te Maire Martin, three games back from injury as speculation continues to mount as when Penrith will bring him back to the fold in the NRL but it was the Roos halves pairing of Joey Lussick and Tyler Cornish that instead dominated proceedings to establish an eighteen point lead before the Panthers threatened to mount a second-half comeback.
To make matters worse for the home side, both Andrew Heffernan (shoulder), Corey Harawira-Naera (concussion) and Josh Hall (hip) were both forced out of the game with injury during the second half, while Wyong have injury concerns of their own after hooker Mitch Williams hobbled from the field midway through the second half.
The home side started the game the better but failed to convert three golden opportunities into points inside the opening twenty minutes of the game.
The first opportunity was lost when Te Maire Martin opted to take on the line himself instead of opting to put it through the hands where the Panthers had a numerical advantage out to the right, before an offload from Zach Dockar-Clay to Dylan Edwards who crossed over out wide, was ruled forward.
The to make matters worse for the home side, a floating cut-out pass from Martin found his winger, Josh Hall but he lost possession as he looked to dive over in the corner in the 15th minute.
The Panthers were made to pay for those missed opportunities when Wyong on the back of some sustained possession were able to open the scoring when quick play right allowed the halfback Tyler Cornish to dummy at the line and score out wide and duly converted to give the visitors an unlikely 6-0 lead after 24 minutes.
The home side soon had yet another chance to score but Andrew Heffernan’s cross-field kick found Ray Lesoa but the centre was unable to control the ball.
That near-miss from the Panthers again sparked Wyong into action, scoring two more converted tries to set up a commanding 18-0 lead at the main break.
The first came after some second-phase play on the last from Luke Garner, enabled his trailing centre, Chris Centrone to beat the cover defence and score in the right corner before Tyler Cornish’s 40/20 kick allowed the Roos to score again through Dominic Reardon after some deft touches from Joey Lussick and Mitchell Frei allowed the fullback to sweep left and score.
A 52nd try to PNG prop Stanton Albert, who scored his maiden try at this level after he backed up Josh Hall, who took another trade-mark AFL style catch from Te Maire-Martin’s midfield bomb reduced the gap to twelve.
The Panthers could have reduced that gap to just six but the pass from Brendon Attwood to prop Andy Saunders, who crashed over underneath the posts, was deemed to have gone forward.
Again Penrith were made to pay for that missed chance when a barnstorming run from former Penrith back-rower Chris Smith allowed Luke Garner to score and push Wyong’s lead back out to 16 midway through the second half.
But despite losing the likes of Heffernan, Haraweira-Naera and Hall to injury, Penrith weren’t done with just yet.
George Jennings’ spectacular put-down in the left corner off a Martin cross-field kick and Zach Dockar-Clay’s long cut-out pass that enabled an unmarked Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to cross over untouched, ensured a grandstand finish for the home team with seven minutes remaining.
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 when Dylan Edwards was tackled just short of the line in the dying minutes.
Wyong will now play Newcastle in the local derby next Saturday at Hunter Stadium while the Panthers will look to end a four match-losing streak when they host Canterbury at Pepper Stadium.