Wests Tigers Holden Cup side have battled bravely but ultimately gone down to the second-placed Penrith Panthers 38-12 this afternoon at Pepper Stadium.
Trailing just 12-8 at the half-time break following an entertaining first half, it was the home side who flexed their premiership muscle in the second half — producing a determined attacking display to emerge with an 26-point victory in the end.
After a tight start, it was the Panthers who opened the scoring 10 minutes in to the contest with Dean Blore dummying close to the line before diving over under the posts.
The halfback had no problems converting from in front for a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers doubled their advantage in the 17th minute when an offload from captain Wayde Egan found big Tevita Mapapalangi over for a simple finish, with Blore again adding the extras from close range to take the hosts’ lead out to 12-0.
As they showed last week with a tremendous fight back against the Gold Coast Titans, Wests Tigers refused to be overpowered by their superior opponents, and crossed for their first points of the afternoon when Liam Pakau powered his way over in the corner.
James Tautaiolefua was unable to add the extras from the sideline, but the winger would more than make up for that miss when he capped off a length of the field try started by Jai Doolan — racing away to touch down in the opposite corner of Pepper Stadium.
Again, he was unable to add the extras from out wide, leaving the score at a somewhat surprising narrow 12-8 lead as the half-time siren sounded at Pepper Stadium.
Penrith would begin the second half the stronger of the two sides, and soon restored their two-try lead as J’Maine Hopgood powered his way over from close range.
Blore was unable to convert, however, leaving the score at 16-8 after 47 minutes.
Wests Tigers had a chance to hit back with a man advantage down the right, but the pass from Jai Doolan went in to touch — giving the Panthers a much-needed reprieve.
That would prove costly for the visitors as the home side crossed in the ensuing set, Ray Maroun breaking the line and standing up Doolan at the back to dive over the line.
The conversion was again waved away from Blore, leaving the score at 20-8.
After another error at the back from Wests Tigers gifted the home side time on the attack again, with Daine Laurie diving over in the corner to put the result beyond doubt.
Blore stepped up to convert from the sideline, taking the lead to 26-8 after 65 minutes.
Jakob Giles would pull one back for the visitors in his return from injury — catching the Panthers napping down the short side after a good late offload from Peter Pakoti.
Again Tautaiolefua was unable to convert, leaving the scoreline at 26-12, before Daniel Brown acrobatically touched down in the corner to extend Penrith’s led to 32-12, before Stefano Hala added one more try in the final minutes to ensure a commanding victory.
Penrith 38 (Blore, Mapapalangi, Hopgood, Maroun, Laurie, Brown, Hala tries; Blore 5/7 goals) def. Wests Tigers 12 (Pakau, Tautaiolefua, Giles tries; Tautaiolefua 0/3 goals)