Spectacular. Incredible. Unbelievable.
Use whatever words you want to describe it, but last Saturday night’s 23-22 win by Penrith over Brisbane will remain etched in every fan’s memory for years to come.
We’ve all seen great comebacks and close finishes before, but this one was particularly special – a side with its back against the wall, down on troops and with its confidence clearly rattled somehow came from 16 points down to claim victory against the side many tout as certain grand finalists in 2016.
There’s no doubt Brisbane switched off but when they were finally alert to Penrith’s comeback, they simply couldn’t stop the momentum. The enthusiasm of debutant Te Maire Martin, the experience of Jamie Soward and the renewed focus of Peter Wallace at hooker combined to produce the points Penrith needed to win the contest.
Throw in a roaring performance from Reagan Campbell-Gillard (minus his first tackle blunder) and Bryce Cartwright’s tremendous ability to keep the ball alive (even if it is a little ‘rocks and diamonds’ sometimes) and you have a football team that’s clearly on its way to finding its mojo.
It was a win that could change and redirect Penrith’s season.
When you consider the victory happened without Trent Merrin, Dean Whare, James Segeyaro, Matt Moylan and Waqa Blake, it’s even more incredible.
The likely return of Moylan this weekend (even though he wasn’t named by coach Anthony Griffin on Tuesday) is particularly important for Penrith. Even though the Panthers got home on Saturday night, replacement fullback Will Smith’s confidence took a major hit. In short, he had a shocker.
The Panthers desperately need Moylan back in the side to add the X-factor that was missing in the opening two games of the season, both of which Penrith had every chance to win.
There’s no doubt the Panthers still have some work to do. While he improved in the second half, Peta Hiku’s defence is questionable – four missed tackles in both of his last two games is being somewhat overshadowed by his great finishing ability, but it needs to be tightened up. It’s no surprise that Brisbane spent so much time targeting his side of the field.
And the Panthers need to work on their fifth tackle options – constantly putting the footy in the air when nobody is chasing through to contest the ball is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.
The Dragons won tough in awful conditions at the Sydney Cricket Ground last Sunday, coming away 8-6 winners over Souths in a game overshadowed by the Sam Burgess injury.
The side appeared a little out of sorts without the experienced Benji Marshall in the halves and he is again missing for this game due to a hamstring complaint, unless he is a late inclusion.
St George-Illawarra have scored the lowest points out of all 16 clubs so far this season, and they won last weekend’s game on the back of some great defence. As long as Penrith can match them in defence, they should walk away with the win.
Tip: Panthers by 12
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.