The Wentworthville Magpies have withstood a late onslaught from the Penrith Panthers, securing a 13-12 win that sees the Magpies win back-to-back for the first time in 2017. The Panthers, meanwhile, contemplate losing a game inside the last two minutes of play for the second week in a row, this time through a Troy Dargan 30m field goal at Pepper Stadium.
The win continues Wentworthville’s dominance over Penrith in recent times, having won three games straight over their Western Sydney rivals, while for the Panthers, the loss continues a worrying form slump for a side that were installed as strong premiership favourites at the start of the season.
Having won three of their opening four games, the Panthers now find themselves battling to remain in the top eight as another halves combination in Darren Nicholls and Samisoni Langi failed to deliver a much-needed win.
Penrith once again came into the game bolstered by the inclusion of Sitaleki Akauola and Viliame Kikau, while the Magpies whilst fielding ex-Panthers Will Smith and George Jennings, came into the game minus David Gower.
Both sides had early opportunities to put points on the board but were guilty of taking poor options taken in attack, especially from Penrith who squandered one great chance when a Mitch Rein offload was grassed by Darren Nicholls with the try line wide open.
Wentworthville themselves should have broken the deadlock midway through the opening half when an attacking shift left allowed Smith to slice through the line and looked certain to score but in looking to improve the scoring position, Darren Nicholls arrived on the scene and managed to dislodge the ball as the fullback attempted to put the ball down.
But despite the setback, Wentworthville’s resilience in defence throughout the opening half was rewarded with a well worked try on the half-hour mark that put the Magpies ahead 6-0.
Jamal Fogarty, spotting Akauola had moved out to the right edge, quickly directed play towards his edge where the defensive line was at sixers and sevens with a flurry of inside-outside passes enabling Nathan Davis to burst through the line before he turned it back inside to his skipper Cody Nelson to score.
Wentworthville almost extended that 6-0 lead on the stroke of half-time when Bureta Faraimo stormed his way towards the line only to be held up in-goal from some strong converging defence from Dylan Edwards and again Nicholls.
But the Magpies wouldn’t have to wait too long to double their lead, when Faraimo put on a simple show and go on the last tackle at the try line to dive over and score in the left corner four minutes into the second half.
Penrith continued to fumble their way through the second half and were often guilty of playing too lateral in attack as their halves again failed to take control of the game and show some variety in their kicking game.
But the Panthers, when they decided to play direct at the line, looked to have finally found their groove in attack and reduced the gap to six with 14 minutes remaining after Jack Hetherington scored from close range off a quick play-the-ball.
Penrith could have easily levelled the scores from the very next set when that man Hetherington burst clear, going deep inside Magpies defence but despite having an unmarked Edwards looming in support, instead took on the last-line of defence himself and the try-scoring opportunity was lost.
However Penrith did manage to level the scores with seven minutes remaining to set up yet another grandstand finish, when Kikau proved to be unstoppable from close range and scored next to the posts.
But just as Penrith had found some much-needed direction in attack to work their way back into the game, it quickly deserted them when it mattered most when a poorly-constructed set to set up the field goal, resulted in Tyrone May missing his attempt from out wide.
It was the shot in the arm that the tiring visitors needed, getting a seven-tackle set that in contrast to Penrith’s previous set was well constructed, enabling Troy Dargan to slot home his field goal with 81 seconds remaining to secure Wentworthville’s third win of the season.
The one-point win for Wentworthville sees them join Penrith level on six competition points as they now look forward to a home clash next Saturday against Newtown, while the Panthers’ soul-search for the win that will end their four-game losing streak continues when they head to HE Laybutt Sports Complex to take on Blacktown.
Wentworthville Magpies 13 (C Nelson, B Faraimo tries; J Fogarty 2 goals; T Dargan field goal) def Penrith Panthers 12 (J Hetherington, V Kikau tries; D Nicholls 2 goals)