Tigers and Panthers provide classic in tight derby

In the battle of the big cats, the Wests Tigers welcome the Penrith Panthers as both sides looked to solidify their place in the top-eight.

After a huge hit on Luke Garner from Viliame Kikau which forced a knock-on, the Panthers attacked from a scrum from ten-metres out.

A few tackles later, the ball was shifted to the left-hand edge, and Stephen Crichton walked in for the first points of the match.

The Tigers should have pulled themselves back without a doubt just a few minutes later, as Joey Leilua had just Kikau in front of him, and David Nofoaluma on his outside.

Instead of passing to his winger to score, Leilua went on his own and was wrapped up by Kikau and the rest of the covering Panthers defence.

Kikau then showed his attacking prowess, as Jerome Luai’s kick was knocked down by Crichton to his left-hand side partner and the second-rower dotted down.

However, the ball came forward off the hand of Crichton and Kikau was denied.

After a tough opening ten minutes, the Tigers began to work themselves back into the game and forced multiple goal-line drop-outs from the Panthers.

Luke Brooks was the next player to push the Tigers forwards, as he broke through the Penrith line, and looked to offload to Tommy Talua, but it was picked off by Brent Naden.

A 40/20 from Nathan Cleary allowed the Panthers to start yet another attacking set inside the Wests half.

Having been camped inside Tigers territory, Penrith needed to score, but a rushed pass from Brent Naden under pressure from Moses Mbye couldn’t find Brian To’o and the home side escaped unscathed.

After Kikau was penalised for a tackle off the ball on Josh Reynolds, the Tigers finally started a set deep inside the Panthers half.

Matt Eisenhuth received the ball from Harry Grant and after stepping inside Kikau, spotted a huge gap and stretched over to score despite the best effort of Liam Martin in defence.

With seven minutes to go until the break, the frantic nature of the game continued as a dropped ball from Dylan Edwards allowed Luciano Leilua to go close by the posts, but a quick pass out left allowed Moses Mbye to tap the ball out to Tommy Talau who broke the tackle of Isaah Yeo and score.

HALF-TIME: Wests Tigers 10-6 Penrith Panthers

The second half seemed to start in the same fashion as the first, as Stephen Crichton dotted down for a try.

Luai kick was chased by Crichton and Nofoaluma and the young centre managed to win the battle for the ball and levelled the scores.

Cleary converted to make it 10-12.

The Panthers began to pile the pressure on the Tigers but they couldn’t break through the stern defensive from the home side.

Adam Douiehi relieved all of that pressure after the swept up a fifth tackle kick and raced 60-metres upfield to turn defence into attack.

Despite a poor fifth tackle kick from Luke Brooks, Luciano Leilua picked up the ball, and was clattered across the jaw by Koroisau for a penalty.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, Luciano was unlikely to continue after walking off the field slowly, and with assistance, looking extremely groggy, leaving the Tigers down to 15 players with Sam McIntyre failing a Head Injury Assessment in the first half.

After the long break, Doueihi converted to make it 12 apiece with an hour gone.

With Koroisau’s hit on Luciano Leilua, the carries and tackles seemed to go up a notch, with Joey Leilua fired up for Wests.

Brian To’o twisted his ankle in a tackle for the Panthers, which left them down to just 16 players.

After some bizarre defensive decisions from the Tigers and a missed knock-on by the Panthers, Stephen Crichton managed to cross once more. However, Kikau obstructed Luke Garner by making contact with his outside shoulder and the score remained 12-12.

With eight and a half minutes to go and the game in the balance, Nathan Cleary took control and iced the set with a drop-goal for a slender one-point lead for the visitors.

In the very next set, Koroisau made a break straight down the middle of the park after a poor tackle from Eisenhuth and Michael Chee-Kam, and with just Doueihi to beat, passed inside the Edwards who did enough to evade the tackle of Nofoaluma to score.

Cleary converted once more to give Penrith a seven-point lead with five minutes remaining.

With four minutes remaining a flurry of handling errors from both sides, the Tigers were awarded a scrum 40-metres out.

A fourth-tackle kick from Brooks was cleaned up by the Panthers, and then Joey Leilua hit Edwards with a swinging arm off the ball, and late to concede a stupid penalty, which also caused yet another ruck between the sides.

Leilua was also sent to the sin-bin for the remainder of the game.

The Tigers were in possession of the ball in the final minute of the game, with plenty of built-up aggression finally coming out between the two sides right on the final whistle.

Dylan Edwards claimed the high ball, who was clattered high by Luke Garner, which the Panthers took exception too.

After more handbags and another incident to go on report, Adam Gee blew the final whistle.

FULL-TIME: Wests Tigers 12-19 Penrith Panthers


Wests Tigers

Doueihi, Nofoaluma, J. Leilua, Mbye, Talau, Reynolds, Brooks, Aloiai, Grant, Clark, Garner, L. Leilua, Eisenhuth

Interchanges: Taylor, Mikaele, McIntyre, Chee-Kam

Tries: Eisenhuth, Talau

Goals: Doueihi (2/3)

Sin-Bins: J. Leilua

Penrith Panthers

Edwards, Mansour, Crichton, Naden, To’o, Luai, Cleary, Tamou, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Martin, Yeo

Interchanges: Tetevano, Leota, Burns, May

Tries: Crichton (2), Edwards

Goals: Cleary (3/3)

Drop-Goals: Cleary

Referee: A. Gee

Touch Judges: P. Henderson, K. Badger

Video Referee: B. Scott

Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)

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