Wests Tigers NSW Cup side have gone down 34-20 to defending premiers Penrith Panthers in their Round 20 clash on Saturday at Campbelltown Stadium.
Trailing 18-0 after as many minutes, Wests Tigers battled on gamely to reduce the deficit to 18-10 at the half-time break, but they were ultimately no match for the Panthers, who ran in three-second half tries to emerge with a 14-point win in the end.
An error from Kurtis Rowe off a high bomb from Isaac John gifted the Panthers first points of the afternoon after nine minutes of play, as Maliko Filino raced through to collect the error and crash over for the simplest of tries next to the uprights.
Isaac John had no problems adding the extras for a 6-0 lead after 10 minutes of play.
The visitors quickly doubled their lead in the 13th minute when a miscommunication between Rowe and John Sila allowed the Panthers to regather their kick, with John cutting back against the grain to find Ben Murdoch-Masila down the short side.
John’s successful conversion pushed the Panthers’ lead to 12-0, and it appeared they would run away with a huge first half advantage when Tim Moltzen was beaten down the short side in the 18th minute — allowing Malaka Watene-Zelezniak to streak away down the left wing before linking back up with Kieran Moss on the inside to score.
John’s third conversion of the match gave the Panthers a 18-0 lead after 19 minutes.
After soaking up further sustained attacking pressure from the visitors, Wests Tigers would finally get on the scoreboard in the 31st minute when Rowe linked up with Nathan Milone on the left edge, with the centre stepping back on the inside to score.
Josh Drinkwater was unable to add the extras, however, leaving the score at 18-4.
Wests Tigers would make it back-to-back tries the following set when Sila and Rowe combined down the left wing, with the fullback making up for his earlier errors to score under the posts — giving Drinkwater a simple conversion to take the score to 18-10.
It would remain that way as both teams went to the half-time sheds at Campbelltown Sports Stadium — each no doubt feeling they were still definitely in the contest.
Despite Wests Tigers starting the stronger of the two sides with Moltzen going close to grounding his own grubber in-goal, it was Penrith who opened the second-half scoring in the 45th minute when Eddie Aiono finished off a right-edge move after 45 minutes.
John was unable to add the extras from out wide, though, leaving their lead at 22-10.
Penrith extended their lead in the 49th minute when John and halves partner Sam Scarlett combined close to the posts, with the halfback reacting quickest to plant down John’s grubber and push the visitors’ lead out to 28-10 with 30 minutes remaining.
Garth Brennan’s side would continue to ride their luck, with a second fortuitous try off a kick in the 57th minute coming the way of Aiono, who crashed through the line to score.
John’s successful conversion extended the Panthers’ lead out to 34-10 after 60 minutes.
Rowe would continue his improved second half with his second try of the afternoon in the 68th minute — bursting down the short side off a clever pass from Lamar Liolevave, before taking on the fullback Moss and beating him to touch down in the corner.
Drinkwater couldn’t convert from out wide, though, leaving the scoreline at 34-14.
Penani Manumalealii, who had been moved back to the interchange bench with the late withdrawal of Joel Luani, grabbed a late consolation try for Wests Tigers with three minutes remaining, diving over from dummy half to reduce the margin to 34-20.
That wouldn’t be enough to affect the result, however, with the Panthers holding firm to emerge with a 14-point win from their Round 20 contest at Campbelltown Stadium.
Penrith Panthers 34 (Aiono 2, Filino, Moss, Murdoch-Masila, Scarlett tries; John 5/6 goals) def. Wests Tigers 20 (Rowe 2, Milone, Manumalealii tries; Drinkwater 2/4 goals)