Penrith and South Sydney clashed at Netsrata Jubilee Stadium on Thursday, as the Rabbitohs looked to solidify their position in the top-eight, and the Panthers looking to go top.
The Panthers were the first to put points on the board, as Nathan Cleary’s kick was tapped back by Viliame Kikau to Jarome Luai, out to Brent Naden who raced over to score in the corner.
With 20 minutes gone, the Panthers found themselves deep in the Rabbitohs half, but Liam Martin couldn’t quite grab Cleary’s chip into the in-goal area and knocked on.
Naden nearly had a chance to pick up a second minutes later, as he dove over in the corner, fortunately for Souths, Jayden Su’A covered across, and knocked the winger into touch.
Despite being solid in defence, the Rabbitohs couldn’t complete their sets inside the Penrith 30-metre line, and the home side looked to punish them.
Ill-discipline from the Rabbitohs allowed the Panthers to attack from inside the 20-metre line once again, and this time, the second try was scored.
Luai kicked in behind on the fourth tackle, and Stephen Crichton beat Dane Gagai to the ball, to dot down.
Nathan Cleary missed both conversions attempts, and the Panthers led 8-0 with just under half an hour gone.
Brian To’o failed to collect and simple kick from Adam Reynolds, which put South Sydney in good field position. but Wayne Bennett’s side just couldn’t control the ball and struggled to break through the Panthers defence.
A minute later, the Rabbitohs should have scored, as Reynolds and Walker combined to send Alex Johnston down the left-hand edge, and all Johnston had to do was throw a simple pass back inside to score.
Johnston did pass though, but it flew forwards and let Penrith off the hook once again.
A Luai high tackle on Cody Walker was followed by an offside, and Souths were determined to break through the Panthers line before the half came to an end.
Unfortunately, Reynolds kick into the in-goal was cleaned up by Cleary to end the half.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 8-0 South Sydney Rabbitohs
The second-half started the brighter for the Rabbitohs, with multiple sets of six in succession putting them deep inside the Panthers 10-metre line.
After ten minutes of intense pressure on Penrith, the Rabbitohs came from the right side, over to the left, and Adam Reynolds passed back inside to the onrushing Bailey Sironen who crashed over for his first NRL try.
With just two points between the teams, the next try was important, and it was the Panthers who picked it up.
Dylan Edwards picked up the ball on the right-hand edge, pushed off Braidon Burns, and then exploited the gap created by the floored centre, to stretch over and score.
Cleary was still unable to convert, and Penrith still only led by six with 20 minutes remaining.
The next ten minutes of the game belonged to the Panthers, as they forced multiple goal-line drop-outs from Souths Sydney.
It looked as though the Rabbitohs had just done enough to keep the Panthers out. However, Stephen Crichton was taken out off the ball by James Roberts while chasing a kick through from Luai.
It wasn’t a penalty try due to the defensive position from Latrell Mitchell, but Roberts was sent to the sin-bin, and Cleary finally kicked a goal to extend the Panthers lead to eight.
With seven minutes to go, the game was still there for the Rabbitohs to win, but further handling errors looked to put an end to that idea.
A few minutes later, the Rabbitohs were down to 11-players as Latrell Mitchells held on too long in the tackle of Brent Naden, and the Penrith looked to pick up a final try.
Nathan Cleary made up for his three missed kicks, as he pushed off two Souths defenders, ran back across the field, then dummied and stepped inside Ethan Lowe, and outmuscled Damien Cook to score.
After reclaiming the kick-off, the Rabbitohs spread the ball wide to Alex Johnston who dived over to score.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 20-12 South Sydney Rabbitohs
Edwards, To’o, Whare, Crichton, Naden, Luai, Cleary, Tamou, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Martin, Yeo
Interchanges: Burton, Tetevano, Leota, Burns
Tries: Naden, Crichton, Edwards, Cleary
Goals: Cleary (2/5)
South Sydney Roosters
Mitchell, Gagai, Graham, Burns, Johnston, Walker, Reynolds, Tatola, Cook, Burgess, Su’A, Lowe, Murray
Interchanges: Knight, Sironen, Roberts, Sele
Tries: Sironen, Johnston
Goals: Reynolds (2/2)
Sin-Bins: Roberts, Mitchell
Referee: G. Sutton
Touch Judges: C. ButlerT. Smith
Video Referee: B. Galea
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)