What a dud! For a match talked up as an explosive encounter between two teams with plenty of frosty and tense relationships traversing between them, the Panthers and Tigers was less than inspiring.
Penrith continued their listless start to the season and aversion to scoring points. The Wests Tigers did little more than grind away and allow the Panthers to shoot themselves in the foot time after time.
It was often comical for the Panthers, with a much lauded and talented team of supposed youthful brilliance, seemingly incapable of breaching the resilient Tigers’ defence despite a multitude of opportunities.
A lone penalty goal to the coach’s son had the Panthers in front early before Corey Thompson scored the only try of the first half to send the Tigers to the sheds with a 4-2 lead.
The notion of a fiery clash in the west, so ramped up by the media during the week, was well and truly dead at that point.
The Tigers scored their second try after the break from the boot of Josh Reynolds. Ryan Matterson crossed in the 61st minute after an astute kick from the pivot, just as Thompson had done earlier in the game.
What followed was a sustained period of attack from the Panthers where errors and bad decisions became the norm and the Tigers were let off the hook time and time again.
Neither side showed any awareness of the notions of caution or wind and the conservative nature of the match was to continue deep into the second half.
Each and every time the Tigers looked like sealing the deal, the ball was dropped. Whenever the Panthers looked dangerous, a forward pass or lost ball would stifle their play.
Even a field goal attempt from Reynolds reflected the poor execution of skill in the contest; as it rebounded off the post and found the arms of a waiting Panther.
The dying moments summed up the rather bizarre contest, as the final attacking set of the Panthers resulted in a try in the corner to Dylan Edwards and the conversion from Nathan Cleary sent the game to golden point.
Rather ironically, both teams controlled the ball far better in extra-time than they did during the 80 minutes prior.
Luke Brooks missed the first chance to win the match with the obligatory field goal, before the Panthers went straight to the other end; setting Cleary up for the chance to win the game with a kick of his own.
Cleary’s kick was bullet-like and the Panthers won an NRL game that many would suggest they seemed to have lost 30 minutes earlier.
I’m not sure what Michael Maguire will say to his team after the defeat. The Tigers were rubbish against the Bulldogs in Round 3 and have now let a game slip that they appeared to have in their pocket for much of the night.
Ivan Cleary will be astonished with the win, yet in the full knowledge that his team is also well off the pace in terms of being a serious premiership contender.
Earlier, the modern classic that is the New Zealand Warriors versus the Gold Coast Titans took place at Mount Smart Stadium.
Two first half tries had the Warriors in front by a dozen at the break, with the point shy Titans failing to open their account in the first 40 minutes.
The wizardry of the Warrior’s wingers in the air had obviously got into the minds of the Titans back three. Three dropped bombs had the visitors under all sorts of pressure and despite the Warriors not completely gelling in attack, they were good for their two try lead at the break.
The second half saw the visitors finally get some traction in the contest and tries to Dale Copley and Anthony Don halved the 20-0 lead that the Warriors had established after 61 minutes.
However, it was to be fleeting, as New Zealand’s defence held and a late try to Tohu Harris sealed the match and a 26-10 victory.
The win gave the Warriors their second of the season and condemned the Titans to their fourth consecutive loss. The Warriors will feel their season is somewhat back on track after two horrendous performances against the Tigers and Sea Eagles.
The Titans will lick their wounds and regroup for a clash with the Panthers next Friday night.