Minus a host of their Intrust Super Premiership regulars, the Penrith Panthers have scored a hard-fought 24-14 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Match: Panthers v Dragons
Round 17 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Tyrone May and Jarome Luai watched on following their starring roles in the Panthers NRL win over the Warriors the night prior, as the fresh-faced Penrith outfit overcame an undermanned Dragons side.
Running with a howling breeze at their backs in the first period, Penrith found the front courtesy of their captain Kaide Ellis.
Ellis collected a short ball at the line from NSW Residents representative Liam Martin to register the first points in the match. Fill-in No.6 Adam Keighran converted with ease from adjacent to the uprights.
But the Dragons would hit back.
A left-to-right shift found the Steeden in the hands of their fullback Patrick Herbert, who sliced his way through would-be defenders to get the Dragons back within two points. Jai Field's wayward shot on goal ensured it would remain that way, the Panthers up 6-4, just nine minutes played.
In a worrying way for Dragons coach Mat Head, Panthers big man Andy Saunders strolled his way in for the hosts' second try, again close to the posts. Keighran kept his perfect record with the boot intact, sending Penrith to a 12-4 front.
Tit-for-tat for much of the first 40 minutes, the Dragons responded again – this time courtesy of Jordan Pereira, who was assisted in no small part by Herbert. The leading try-scorer touched down to take his personal haul in 2018 to 15.
The blustery conditions at the foot of the mountains proved troublesome for goal kickers – not least Jai Field – who was unable to convert from wide out for a second time on the afternoon.
12-8 the score would remain at half-time, and upon the change of ends, both sides settled into a back-and-forth rhythm. The Dragons eventually made the game swing in their favour, and did so via Josaia Lovodua who cut through the Panthers' left-edge defence.
With Field off the field for a HIA, Patrick Herbert slotted the conversion to take the Dragons to a 14-12 lead.
Lovodua un-did all his good work when he was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul, giving the panthers cause to strike back – which they did.
Quick-fire tries to Maika Sivo and Keighran shot the hosts out to a 24-14 lead, as Guy Missio's side consolidated their place atop the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder.