A Nathan Cleary field goal and a spectacular Dylan Edwards try inside the final 10 minutes has given Penrith a 19-12 win over Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium.
The exciting game was precariously placed for much of the contest, but in the end Penrith had too much skill and grabbed the win to move back into second spot on the NRL ladder.
Penrith’s opening to the game was ferocious – Viliame Kikau introduced himself to Harry Grant in spectacular fashion with a massive hit, and Stephen Crichton crossed in the ensuing set to open up an early 6-0 lead.
From there, the Panthers defended like their lives depended on it – a high energy and mass impact approach that left the Tigers rattled and struggling to keep up with the pace of the game.
But despite being on the ropes for much of the first half hour, the Tigers managed to repel Penrith’s repeated attacking opportunities. Then, on the back of multiple set restarts, Matthew Eisenhuth scored the softest of tries to bring the Tigers level at 6-all 11 minutes short of half-time.
As the momentum of the match shifted, a Dylan Edwards error on a kick return ultimately led to a Tommy Talau try out wide, the Tigers taking a 10-6 lead.
Down by four at half-time, the Panthers needed to score first in the second half and it took just five minutes to come – Crichton bagging his second after a well-placed Jarome Luai kick. Cleary’s conversion gave Penrith the lead back at 12-10.
The Panthers had plenty of opportunities to go further ahead, but again failed to capitalise on them – and when the Tigers levelled the scores with a penalty goal 20 minutes from full-time, it set up a grandstand finish.
Crichton almost grabbed his first career hat-trick when he crossed the line with 13 minutes left, but The Bunker over-turned the on-field decision of try – ruling Viliame Kikau had impeded a defender.
Eight minutes from full-time, the Panthers edged in front again when Nathan Clearly calmly slotted a field goal to open up a 13-12 lead.
In the next set, Api Koroisau produced a sensational run from dummy half and found a sprinting Dylan Edwards on the left to bag Penrith’s third try of the night and give the visitors their biggest lead of the night.
The game boiled over in the final minutes, with tempers flaring on numerous occasions and Joseph Leilua sent to the sin bin for a bad hit on Dylan Edwards off the ball.
The win wasn’t as convincing as Panthers coach Ivan Cleary would have liked, but again he gets to work on improving a winning team.
Post-match, Nathan Cleary said he was thrilled with the win.
“We didn’t play our best footy but in saying that I thought the Tigers were really good tonight,” he told Fox League.
Brian To’o left the field in the second half with an ankle injury and will likely have scans tomorrow.
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.