Penrith Panthers have ended Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup winning streak with a 22-14 victory on Saturday afternoon at Sportingbet Stadium.
With regular five-eighth Blake Austin and fullback Kurtis Rowe both missing due to first-grade commitments, Wests Tigers struggled to get their attack going on the day, and slumped to an eight-point defeat as a result.
Wests Tigers had the first real attacking chance of the match when Setefano Taukafa plucked the ball out of mid-air to give the visitors the ball on Penrith’s 20, but despite earning a repeat set, they could not get across the line.
That allowed Penrith to work the ball downfield, and they would soon take the lead after some nifty footwork from halfback Isaac John.
John darted through a hole on the last tackle before linking up with Nathan Smith on the inside, who crossed next to the posts for the first points of the match.
Wes Naiqama made no mistake with the conversion to give the hosts a 6-0 lead.
The lead didn’t last long, though, with a strong scrum move allowing Taqele Naiyaravoro to stroll through untouched next to the posts. Jack Madden — who was standing in for regular five-eighth Blake Austin after his first-grade call-up — made no mistake with the conversion to level the match after 20 minutes.
The visitors would hit the lead in the 27th minute when fullback Jy Hitchcox — who was also replacing a first-grade call-up in Kurtis Rowe — crossed out wide. A sharp back-line move saw the fullback run in motion through defenders and plant the ball down just inside the corner to give Wests Tigers a 10-6 lead.
Madden couldn’t combert from the sideline and the score remained 10-6.
Penrith regained the lead in the 32nd minute when Will Smith picked up an offload from Matt Robinson close to the line to dive over.
Wes Naiqama converted to give the hosts a 12-10 lead, which is how the score would read at the main break despite some late attacking from the visitors.
Penrith started the second half much stronger of the two, and finally broke through the Wests Tigers on the back of a mountain of possession. Six repeat sets on the visitors’ line culminated in Kevin Naiqama acrobatically planting the ball down in the corner to give the hosts a 16-10 lead with 21 minutes remaining.
Will Smith, who had taken over the goal-kicking duties following a lower leg injury to Wes Naiqama, couldn’t convert from the sideline.
Wests Tigers had a chance to hit back immediately after that try following an error on the kick-off by Wes Naiqama, but they couldn’t make it count, and soon Penrith were again on the attack through Will Smith.
The fullback ran through and snared an uncontested bomb from Luke Capewell before rounding Marika Koroibete to plant the ball down out wide.
He then converted his own try to push the lead out to 22-10.
With Wests Tigers’ attack struggling to gain any momentum, points continued to be hard to come by as Penrith handled whatever their opponents threw at them. That saw them take a strong lead heading into the last 10 minutes, which wouldn’t be overcome — despite the best efforts of the visitors.
Koroibete got on the outside of his man before feeding Taukafa in the 76th minute to help bring some respectability to the scoreline, but was simply too little too late for the visitors as they ended their three-game winning streak.
Penrith held on strongly to win the match 22-14.