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The Penrith Panthers have put aside the disappointment of last week’s loss to Canterbury-Bankstown to record an important 18-12 win over fellow top-four aspirants Mounties in a torrid affair played in surprisingly good conditions at Pepper Stadium.

Darren Nicholls was instrumental in his side’s Intrust Super Premiership NSW win, not only scoring an individual try and three goals for a haul of 10 points, but steering his young side with a terrific all-round performance. For the visitors, Dave Taylor’s tireless 76-minute effort kept his side in the hunt right up to the final whistle.

Penrith’s resolute defence was the difference as they were able to repel several attacking opportunities from the Mounties who never gave up despite never leading at any stage.

Penrith’s start couldn’t have been any worse when, with the very first carry of the game, prop Moses Leota was taken from the field with an ankle injury. The home side were able to withstand some early Mounties pressure on their own goal line.

But having earned some back-to-back penalties of their own inside the opposition 20 proved too much for the Mounties defence to handle when Panthers centre Michael Oldfield was the benefactor of a well-timed pass from fullback Peta Hiku to open the scoring in the 13th minute. With Nicholls’ conversion from out wide, the home side led 6-0.

Mounties hit back with a beautifully constructed try midway through the first half with Adam Clydesdale and Lachlan Croker working an outside-inside play for the fullback Dominic Reardon to slice through the line from 25 metres out to score out wide and ex-Panther Isaac John made no mistake with the conversion to level the scores.

A poor clearing kick from Mounties was duly punished by Penrith on the half-hour mark when they scored through Nicholls, who showed some great footwork close to the line to crash over out wide to regain that six-point advantage, which they took to the sheds at half-time.

An error in the first set of six after the break from Mounties’ back-rower Sam Duggan proved costly when an offload from dummy-half by Wayde Egan, who was making his debut at this level, enabled back-rower Jed Cartwright to crash over beside the posts to push Penrith’s lead out to 12.

Mounties weren’t to going die wondering and they were rewarded for their efforts with a barnstorming try to Dave Taylor, who was simply unstoppable from close range, running off Croker’s short pass in the 56th minute to reduce the gap to just six points.

But in the aftermath of the Taylor try, referee Todd Smith sensationally placed Brent Naden on report after Nicholls claimed he was bitten on his arm.

Mounties had much of the momentum over the closing stages of the game only for their attacking raids to be blunted time and time again by some last-ditch scrambling defence by the Panthers, which enabled the home side to hang on for the 18-12 win and earn two valuable competition points, as both sides head into next week’s bye.

Penrith Panthers 18 (M Oldfield, D Nicholls, J Cartwright tries; D Nicholls 3 goals) def Mounties 12 (D Reardon, D Taylor tries; I John 2 goals)

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