Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards produced a five-star display in his 100th NRL game as the premiers downed Canberra 26-6 at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.
Edwards looked to be in pain with a shoulder injury for much of the match but he continually turned up in defense and grabbed a try as the Panthers racked up their 18th win of the season.
The Raiders drew first blood in the ninth minute when their inspirational forward leader Josh Papalii powered over from close range for his third try of the season. Jamal Fogarty’s conversion made it 6-0.
It took Penrith just three minutes to hit back after a Raiders error handed them their first attacking opportunity and hooker Api Koroisau burrowed over.
A penalty against Hudson Young for a push on Chris Smith when the Panther was chasing a bomb handed Stephen Crichton an easy shot to make it 8-6 to the premiers after 22 minutes.
Three minutes later the Panthers extended their lead to eight when stand-in halfback Sean O’Sullivan laid on a try for Crichton with a well weighted left foot grubber.
Too easy for Koroisau
A huge blow for the home side late in the first half when prop Joseph Tapine left the field with a rib injury before Penrith went down a man for 10 minutes with James Fisher-Harris without binned for a high shot.
The Raiders then had a number of consecutive sets attacking Penrith’s line but superb clean-up work by Edwards and some last-ditch defense kept the Green Machine at bay.
The home side went down a man in the first minute of the second half when Nick Cotric hit Edwards high and was sent to the bin.
Big Papa fires up the home side
Penrith then produced a special try from long range featuring O’Sullivan handling twice before Edwards scooted away to make it 20-6 to the defending champs.
The Raiders continued to squander their chances and Penrith’s defense refused to yield, with Koroisau, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin getting through a mountain of work.
Panthers five-eighth Jaeman Salmon put the result beyond doubt in the 66th minute when he scored from close range to make it 26-6.
Having suffered just their second loss of the season in Round 20, the Panthers hit back superbly, overcoming the absence of playmakers Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai and star back-rower Viliame Kikau to all but wrap up the minor premiership.
- Raiders prop Joseph Tapine was placed on report in the 24th minute for a crusher tackle on James Fisher-Harris.
- Panthers prop James Fisher-Harris was put on report and sinned eight minutes before half-time for a high shot on Ryan Sutton, who failed his HIA. Canberra’s 18th Man Ata Mariota activated in the 52nd minute as Sutton had been ruled out as a result of a reportable offense.
- Raiders winger Nick Cotric was sin binned in the opening minute of the second half for a high shot on Dylan Edwards.
- Panthers halves Sean O’Sullivan and Jaeman Salmon handled everything Canberra threw at them, racking up 45 tackles between them on the edges.
- The Panthers have won eight of their past 10 games against the Raiders.
Cotric sent to the bin
- Josh Papali’s early try was the 59th of his 258-game career.
- Dylan Edwards ran for 162 meters and had nine tackle breaks for the Panthers.
- Panthers five-eighth Jaeman Salmon was placed on report in the 60th minute after he kicked out and his boot made contact with Tom Starling.
- Sunia Turuva came on in the 69th minute for his NRL debut for Penrith.
- Albert Hopoate did a fine job at fullback for Canberra with 18 runs for 166 metres.
- The Raiders have not defeated the Panthers in Canberra since week two of the 2016 finals series.
Crichton gets a Try
Play of the Game
Playing his 100th NRL game Dylan Edwards celebrated in style in the 46th minute when he finished off a magnificent team try to stretch Penrith’s lead to 14 points. Hooker Api Koroisau started the move on his own side of halfway before finding Isaah Yeo who sent the ball on to James Fisher-Harris. The playmakers carried on the move with Sean O’Sullivan handling twice and Scott Sorensen also involved before Edwards raced away to notch his seventh try of the season.
Edwards marks game 100 with a Try
What They Said
“Very proud of the boys tonight. Canberra had a lot to play for and they definitely had the better of the start of the game so to be able to bounce back straight away and score that helped, and I think when we went down to 12 men that was the turning point. the way we responded to that. That galvanized the team and gave us a lot of confidence. Just a good win for our club all things considered.”
– Panthers coach Ivan Cleary
Panthers: Round 21
“I’m not walking away from that downhearted because there was so much effort the boys put in, but we just let ourselves down by… the tries they scored, they’re tries we stop every week. And just some one- on-one tackles, not making their shot. That doesn’t scare me because we’re better than that defensively. We started the game so well and I knew we would, we’ve been in really good form and that’s not going to stem what we’ve got going. We’re in survival mode and that’s how we’re going to play and we’re not going to let that result tonight stem the way we’ve been preparing and getting around each other so we’ I’ll bounce off that and we’ll go again.” – Raiders coach Ricky Stuart
Raiders: Round 21
The Raiders are at home to the Dragons in Round 22 before heading to Newcastle to tackle the Knights the following week. They finish the regular season with games against Manly (h) and Wests Tigers (a).
The Panthers open Round 22 with a bumper game against the Storm at Bluebet Stadium before tackling the Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium in Round 23. The premiers’ final two games are against the Warriors (h) and Cowboys (a).