Penrith has made a major statement heading into the Finals, coming from 12-0 down to produce a tough-as-nails 25-12 victory over South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium.
The Panthers were left on the back foot in the opening half hour with Souths producing classy football to open up a two-try lead, but when Ivan Cleary’s side eventually put the foot down, the Bunnies simply couldn’t match their intensity.
The major turning point came when Tom Burgess dropped a ball when Souths had all the momentum in the first half. It led to Nathan Cleary scoring off a classy Paul Momirovski kick, and from then on Penrith always appeared in control.
The tight scoreline kept Souths in the contest but Nathan Cleary’s kicking game, Isaah Yeo’s effort in the middle and Penrith’s line speed meant Wayne Bennett’s side couldn’t match it with the 2020 Grand Finalists.
Penrith wrapped up the win with a Nathan Cleary field goal five minutes from full-time, while Api Koroisau scored on the bell to improve the scoreline.
The Panthers suffered an early blow when fullback Dylan Edwards was ruled out after a head knock, but Stephen Crichton did well to cover the loss.
The win puts Penrith into second position with two games remaining.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said he was pleased with the performance.
“The main objective tonight was to continue on an upward trajectory and we definitely did that – against a good team,” he said.
“There’s definitely improvement in us and we have a couple of key players to come back as well.”
The Panthers and Rabbitohs will almost certainly face off in week one of the Finals.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.