It wasn’t pretty and the rust was obvious among a handful of returners but Forbes favourite NRL team the Penrith Panthers clawed their way to a scratchy 30-16 victory over the Wests Tigers in Redcliffe.
As the sides traded tries in the opening 20 minutes, new recruit Tevita Pangai Junior in only his second game for the club, barged over to give the Panthers a vital 12-6 lead at the main break. The former Bronco knocked over three would-be tacklers in an inspirational run that gave Penrith the shot in the arm it needed.
Within three minutes of the resumption, mecurial five-eighth Jerome Luai strolled through some brittle defence and when Vilame Kikau forced his way across after 50 minutes the score was beginning to blow out.
A try to Origin winger Brian To’o who was back for the first time since an ankle injury, was enough to see off the Tigers who battled until the end with two consolation tries of their own. For Penrith, the win means they are now equal with Melbourne on top of the ladder with a derby against Parramatta beckoning to finish the regular season.