World Club Champions, Sydney Roosters started their hunt for a three-peat as they travelled to Penrith Panthers to close out the first Super Saturday of the season.
After the Panthers kick-off went directly into touch, the Roosters won themselves two back-to-back penalties to put them right on the Penrith line.
To kick the scoreboard off, Kyle Flanagan converted for an early 0-2 lead.
In the very next attacking set, the Roosters managed to cross the line, as Flanagan’s high kick wasn’t gathered by Josh Mansour and the loose ball was picked up by Mitch Aubusson who burrowed underneath the Penrith defenders to score the first try of the season for the Sydney.
The early domination from the reigning premiers continued, as Luke Keary’s crossfield kick forced a repeat set, and as a result, Matt Ikuvalu crossed on the right hand edge.
Fortunately for the home side, Tedesco’s quick pass drifted forward before winger could gather and score.
After around 15 minutes, Penrith were working there way back into the game, and after a high tackle from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves on James Tamou, the Panthers looked to pounce.
However, a poor inside pass from Nathan Cleary hit the deck and Sydney still led by six.
It didn’t take long for the Roosters to grab a second though. Jake Friend with an inch perfect grubber kick was jumped on by Sio Taukeiaho to extend the lead.
With just under 15 minutes left of the half, the Panthers pulled one back.
A short side kick from Jarome Luai was well worked with James Tedesco in the defensive line, and Brett Naden grounded the ball just before it cleared the dead-ball line.
As well as losing the game, the Panthers lost Viliame Kikau to a bad-looking shoulder injury just before the break.
In the final minute of the half, the Roosters conceded a penalty, and instead of kicking for two, Penrith attempted to break through the Sydney defence.
They didn’t maange as a loose pass was knocked on by the Roosters and while trying to form a quick scrum frustrations boiled over a little bit between the two sides and the half-time hooter blew.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 6-12 Sydney Roosters
The physicality and speed of the game picked up at the start of the second half, with the Panthers looking to take a foothold in the game.
A quick scoot from the play-the-ball from Apisai Koroisau was causing havoc with the Roosters defence, and after holding down in the tackle from Aubusson, Cleary added two points from the boot to bring the home-side within four.
The pressure the Panthers had put on the Roosters was relieved soon after though.
A high tackle on Tedesco from Jack Hetherington pushed the Roosters up the field.
On the third tackle, Joseph Manu powered over the line with three Panthers on his back, he was held up and the play was brought back. The end of the set was sloopy from the visitors and Penrith cleared their lines with a huge 40/20 from Nathan Cleary.
After two repeat sets on the Roosters line, Cleary’s crossfield kick was plucked out of the air by Joseph Manu with the winger racing to halfway.
With the home-side struggling to deal with the pace of the Roosters counter, Liam Martin interfered at the play-the-ball. The Roosters took the two points to take their lead back to six.
With 20 minutes of the game remaining, a long pause ensued after a head knock to Ikuvalu.
The winger did manage to walk off the field so positive signs for the Roosters.
From out of nowhere, the Panthers levelled. The ball was pushed out to Josh Mansour who chipped the ball back into space and an on-rushing Stephen Crichton gathered the ball and scored his first ever NRL try. Cleary converted to level the scores with 15 minutes remaining.
With 10 minutes to go, it was the Panthers winning the territorial battle. Koroisau was becoming a nightmare for the Roosters and after his twisting run. The ball was shifted out to the wrecking-ball that is Kikau, and the forward bumped off Tedesco and grounded the ball.
Cleary converted to make it 20-14 to Penrith with just nine minutes remaining.
With just over six minutes to go, Sitili Tupouniua had to leave the field after a knock to his knee but that didn’t seem to stop the Roosters go forward.
Luke Keary attempted a chip and chase, and despite the presence of a number of Roosters, Crichton caught the ball on the half-volley.
A break from Isaah Yeo split the Sydney defence, and the Panthers picked up a repeat set after Tedesco was tackled in the in-goal.
With four carries getting the home-side into the middle of the field, Nathan Cleary attempted a drop-goal to push his side seven points but he shanked it wide.
In the final few minutes, Yeo made yet another break, and the Panthers trapped Tedesco once again in the in-goal area.
The drop-out was claimed by Daniel Tupou and Roosters had to go 90 metres to level the game.
The final play was a booming fifth tackle kick from Tedesco, which was claimed by Crichton, and the Panthers had claimed a huge scalp on the Roosters.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 20-14 Sydney Roosters
Aekins, Mansour, Whare, Naden, To’o, Luai, Cleary, Tamou, Koroisau, Tetevano, Fisher-Harris, Martin, Yeo
Interchanges: Kikau, Crichton, Leota, Hetherington
Tries: Naden, Crichton, Kikau
Goals: Cleary (4/4)
Tedesco, Tupou, Morris, Manu, Ikuvalu, Keary, Flanagan, Waerea-Hargreaves, Friend, Taukeiaho, Tupouniua, Aubusson, Radley
Interchanges: Verrills, Liu, Butcher, Collins
Tries: Aubusson, Taukeiaho
Goals: Flanagan (3/4)