The Panthers may not have escaped with the two competition points from Morry Breen Oval for the first time since 2013, but a dramatic 78th-minute try to Maika Sivo, converted from near-touch by Adam Keighran, has ensured that they have left with a share of the points in what was Penrith and Wyong’s first clash since the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership Grand Final.
With points at a premium for the better part of the game, Wyong, who were arguably the better side for the majority of game, could have come away with their third successive win had Josh Mantellato landed a difficult penalty goal attempt early in the second half, which would have pushed the home side’s lead out to what would have been a difficult eight point lead to run down, such were the worsening playing conditions.
Match: Roos v Panthers
Round 13 -
Venue: Morry Breen Oval
With the benefit of the strong wind in the first half and the late inclusion of playmakers Tyrone May, Jarome Luai and Wayde Egan, Penrith were expected to make light work of their 2017 grand final opponents, having spent the majority of the opening half camped in the Roos’ half.
The Panthers should have opened the scoring after just 13 minutes when a Caleb Aekins line-break found centre Sam Smith backing up his fullback to streak away for what looked certain to be a terrific long-distance try.
But the Wyong defence scrambled magnificently to put Smith off balance just enough for the rangy centre to put a foot into touch before planting the ball down over the tryline.
Despite their territorial dominance, Penrith looked clunky in attack and continued to frustrate themselves with the poor options taken and were made to pay for those lost opportunities in the 27th minute.
A Kaide Ellis penalty on the last tackle invited the Roos to attack inside the Panthers’ 20 once again and a couple of plays later, half Mitch Cornish and back-rower Brock Gray combined to put Mantellato over in the left corner.
Mantellato was unable to convert from the touchline kicking into the wind but nonetheless Wyong held a very handy four-point lead.
Have squandered those early opportunities, the Panthers finally clicked into gear with five minutes remaining to half-time, with Maika Sivo scoring the first of his two tries for the afternoon, finishing off a 30-metre movement with Luai, Tom Eisenhuth and Aekins heavily involved in the lead-up, to level the scores 4-4.
The defending premiers were soon in front, scoring off the very next set, when Ellis broke through the heart of the Wyong defence from deep inside his own half, before sending Egan on a 30 metre run to score underneath the posts, pushing the score out to 10-4 in favour of the visitors.
But Wyong would not be denied and on the stroke of half time, interchange forward Ben Thomas caught the Panthers goal line defence napping to crash over out wide and with Mantellato’s conversion, it would be the home side who would go into the sheds the happier at the break, level at 10-10.
Consecutive penalties from the Panthers, soon saw the Roos regain the lead in the 46th minute when Cornish and Gray again combined, only this time for the back-rower to break through the attempted tackle of May to cross over out wide and with Mantellato’s conversion, the Roos held their biggest lead of the game at 16-10.
The heavens opened up in the second half, limiting the ability of both sides to play expansive footy.
But a rare error by Wyong with four minutes remaining just 20 metres out from their own try line allowed the Panthers to level the scores, when Egan’s deft kick at the line, deflected off the Wyong defensive line and into the waiting arms of the Panthers before Eisenhuth put the Fijian winger, Sivo over for his second try, converted by Keighran.
Penrith who had been outplayed for most of the match almost snatched the game in the last set of the game but their option to run the ball instead taking the option to go for field goal 20 metres out with seconds remaining, failed and both teams would end the game with the share of the points.
Next up for Wyong is a trip up the motorway next Saturday to take on their desperate neighbours, Newcastle, coming off a 62 point hiding at the hands of Mounties, while Penrith will have the bye.
Wyong Roos 16 (J Mantellato, B Thomas, B Gray tries; J Mantellato 2 goals) drew with Penrith Panthers 16 (M Sivo 2, W Egan tries; A Keighran 2 goals) at Morrie Breen Oval.