It was billed as the game of the season between two teams who between them have arguably dominated the Intrust Super Premiership NSW with 2014 champions Penrith squaring off against 2015-16 minor premiers Mounties.
But in Sydney‘s big wet it was Mounties who continued on their unbeaten ways with a hard-fought 16-6 win over a Penrith side that failed to handle the conditions with an error-riddled performance, despite being boosted by the late inclusion of Dylan Edwards, Moses Leota, Tim Browne and Michael Oldfield.
For Mounties, their forward pack led by Makahesi Makatoa, Anthony Moriatis and Scott Sorensen paved the way for the win, enabling halves Jordan Turner and Lachlan Croker to employ an effective kicking game in the conditions, while fullback Zac Santo was dangerous every time he touched the ball.
Mounties took advantage of an early weight possession to open the scoring through former Panther Brent Naden, who pounced on a well weighted kick from Croker in the in-goal to give the home side a four-point lead after nine minutes.
Penrith eventually found their way into the game when back-to-back penalties enabled hooker Mitch Rein to produce a show and go at dummy half before burrowing his way over from close range to score and with Nicholls’ conversion, the Panthers led 6-4 midway through the first half.
But Penrith’s inability to complete their sets and getting to their kick proved pivotal as Mounties despite running into a stiff breeze, regained the lead 10-6 in the closing minutes of the opening half, when Mitch Kennedy powered through from close range to crash over next to the posts to give Jordan Turner the easiest of conversions.
Mounties came out with more intent early in the second half and could have extended their lead when Croker put Santo through a yawning gap on halfway but his support runner Sorensen was unable to maintain possession a metre out from the tryline and the opportunity was lost.
But they weren’t to be denied after 57 minutes when a shift right involving Turner and Santo resulted in centre Reubenn Rennie running a great inside line to score out wide and with Turner adding the extras, Mounties suddenly had a greater than six-point lead.
Naden had the opportunity to put the game beyond doubt when he turned defence into attack taking a wayward kick and breaking the Panthers defence from deep inside his own side but was denied just metres out from the left corner in a great covering effort from Dylan Edwards.
In the end a combination of resolute Mounties’ defence and a plethora of errors from Penrith in good attacking positions as the second half progressed ensured that the home team would remain unbeaten after three rounds, running out deserved winners 16-6.
Mounties 16 (B Naden, M Kennedy, R Rennie tries; J Turner 2 goals) def Penrith Panthers 6 (M Rein try; D Nicholls goal)