For the second week in a row, the Penrith Panthers did it the hard way against less-favoured opposition. This time it was cellar dwellers to Brisbane Broncos who they outlasted 18-12 to remain in equal first with Melbourne going into this Saturday night’s blockbuster.
A tryless first half saw only a penalty goal and a Dylan Edwards 40m two-point field goal separate the sides as Penrith went to the main break with a narrow and unconvincing 4-0 lead. The Broncos were arguably the better of the two sides and both teams were unlucky to have tries disallowed one of which was Staines.
Yet despite the effectiveness of Brisbane’s stalling tactics and the sloppy conditions, one always had the feeling that if Penrith were to click it would be very difficult for an underwhelming Brisbane side to negate. That’s exactly what the Panthers did to start the second half.
Tries to To’o and Forbes junior Staines (off arguably the flick pass of the season from Stephen Crichton) and suddenly the mountain men had an 18-0 lead with 20 to play. Not to be deterred, Brisbane dug deep, narrowing the margin to just six with five minutes remaining.
While Penrith were able to repel the Broncos coach Ivan Cleary must surely be concerned with the record 66 missed tackles his side allowed against a team running second last. As good as Cleary, Yeo and co are who are out, if Penrith defend like that come Saturday, the Storm will be far less merciful.
With Nathan Cleary expected to return, Isaah Yeo to undergo HIA tests and the possibility of former NSW player Tevita Pangai Jr also lacing up for the Panthers, this weekend’s grand final rematch might well be the game of the season!