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'How does it not get sin-binned?' Benji fumes at ref's soft call as Cleary insists Edwards not hurt

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20th April, 2024
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Penrith have cruised to a 22-6 win over the Wests Tigers in Bathurst – but Benji Marshall was left bemused by a potentially match-changing sin bin that was not given.

The Tigers had taken the lead early through Junior Tupou, who also went off injured, and would likely have had another had an illegal ankle tap on Justin Olam by Brad Schneider not denied him the chance to run away. Inexplicably, the halfback was not binned for an obvious professional foul.

“I’ve been pretty quiet about the refereeing, but I just feel like we’re not getting the rub of the green,” said Marshall.

“That trip to me is what I would say is a professional foul in the act of a try-scoring opportunity, where Olam was supporting to try and score a try, and he gets tripped up. How’s that not a professional foul and a sin bin? I’ll ask for clarification, but yeah, that hurt us.

“It was a penalty, it’s a professional foul. So how does it not get sin binned?”

In the time that he would have been off, Sunia Turuva scored to put Penrith level, then added another before half time to give them a lead they would never relinquish. In such a tight game, it was hard not to see the sliding doors moment.

The contest was far closer than the scoreline makes it sound. For over an hour, this was nip and tuck, with the Panthers forced to fight for every inch and defend their line extensively against a Wests onslaught.

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Only when Paul Alamoti, on club debut, broke through to make it 16-6 was the result secure and James Fisher-Harris ended an emotional week by crossing late to put gloss on the scoreline.

Penrith were worried late as Dylan Edwards limped out, but Ivan Cleary insisted that it was not serious.

The fullback had been typically imperious, topping 200m with ball in hand and kicking superbly, but was withdrawn in the closing stages with what appeared to be a hamstring complaint, the same injury that is currently keeping Nathan Cleary out of the Panthers team.

This was another step forward for Marshall’s young team, who went toe-to-toe with a real heavyweight and, though they came off second best, will have learned plenty.

For Ivan Cleary, it’s another two points in the bag – as long as his fullback doesn’t pull up too badly.

“It was a tough game, a real grind,” said the Panthers boss. 

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“We didn’t start real well. We were behind the eight-ball early and under pressure in the start of the second half, too, but in both we worked our way through which was really pleasing. 

“It wasn’t our sharpest effort but in terms of just hard work and grinding away it might have been the best in that sense.”

Lachie v Luai

All eyes were on the battle of the Tigers future halves, who faced up against each other in advance of Jarome Luai moving to the club next year.

Luai was his usual effervescent self, and though the game never lent itself to his maverick best, the Samoa international was able to show glimpses of what he is capable of.

Lachlan Galvin was the more impressive, at least for the first hour, not least because he is still so young and raw. The potential that is obvious in everything he does should keep Tigers fans excited about the years to come.

The game was so tight, but one period early in the second half stood out.

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Wests had a huge glut of possession on the Panthers’ line but were unable to make an imprint, and the question of what that sequence of pressure might have looked like if Luai had been playing for the other side hung over the contest.

The Tigers, for all that they are better than they were, still lack an element of spark. That’s not a slight on Aidan Sezer, who was perfectly fine, but it’s why they’ve signed the superstar.

Penrith were clinical in their attacking moments, the Tigers were not. In the end, that was about it.

Tupou made a mistake, Turuva scored. One defensive lapse, Paul Alamoti scored. Penrith will do that.

The old blokes show up for Benji

There’s been plenty of chat about the youth at the Tigers, with the likes of Galvin, Jahream Bula and the Fainu brothers giving long-suffering fans a sense of hope.

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But just as impressive this afternoon were the old guard, who are gradually turning this side around and giving the young blokes space to flourish.

John Bateman had probably his best game for the Tigers, busting a gut on both edges, shifting to centre when Tupou was injured and always trying to promote the footy. They didn’t always work, but he looked by far the most likely to undo the Panthers.

David Klemmer was averaging over 10m a carry in hit up work – exceptional numbers against a side like Penrith – and Justin Olam not only took hard carries but also broke tackles and challenged the line.

Nobody expects the rookies to excel straight away, and mistakes will be made. That’s what happens with kids.

It’s up to the more experienced to set them up for success – and they did that today, even if the result didn’t come.

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