Wests Tigers tame Panthers

Wests Tigers 43 def Penrith Panthers 26
It turned out to be a game of touch football at Telstra Stadium tonight. A display by two of the NRL’s best touch footy exponents.
The Penrith Panthers put on some form from 2003 and came out firing early in the match, racing out to a 20-4 lead not long before half time.

Matt Elliott with help from new staff recruit Ryan Girdler watched from high in the stands as their side showed massive improvement early. Former Dragon Richie Rich got his first grade start at fullback and while he made some errors – the young buck was dynamic when he ran the ball. Williams line broke at least 3 times in the match and twice the Panthers scored soon after.

Peter Wallace was back and showed he really deserved to be in first grade with some magic short passes on the line to set the Panthers up early. Wallace was slotted in at the unfamiliar role of hooker and still put in a huge showing.

Firman and Gower in the halves weren’t brilliant and still need time to develop. The two seemed to be playing either side of the ruck rather than together. The Panthers seemed to miss Paul Aiton tonight, even Keith Peters couldn’t get the roll going at dummy half for Penrith. Wallace handled the job well considering he isn’t a hooker, but the Panthers need some sort of stability and can’t keep changing the structure every week.

Big Tony Puletua was outstanding in the first period, proving hard to stop and throwing everything into his game. The possession flowed the Panthers way early and read 70% at one stage, the referee calls and even the bounce of the ball went to Penrith in period 1.

Penrith looked like certainties.

Then half time came.

Tim Sheens must have had some chat in the sheds, because he unleashed the Wests Tigers of old. It was the beast from 2005, with not only plenty of points – but sheer excitement as the Tigers stepped, wove and flick passed their way to the line to roar back from 20-4 in arrears to 32-20. The Tigers did target the Penrith edges, more specifically Brett Firman in the Panthers line.

Chris Lawrence running over the small Penrith pivot to score initially and the young flyer getting another length of field try soon after to take his freakish try scoring tally to 12 from 10 games in 2007. Todd Payten even got in on the act, the big prop finishing a stunning movement where 6 sets of Tigers players interchanged passing on the right hand edge – finishing with Payten dummying inside to score around fullback Richie Rich. Payten would have been a 1000/1 to get a double, but the Tigers bookend was there again to collect a Farah grubber off the posts to score untouched.

And so the Tigers machine rolled on, they became more confident and even arrogant as they kicked on tackle 0 at one stage and threw outrageous passes to belittle the struggling Penrith Panthers. Even the tears from Matt Elliott couldn’t make the Tigers stop as they crushed the mountain men and moved up into the NRL top 4.

Penrith obviously have the problems but are simply a side that has forgotten how to win. They had the game all but sewn up, but its hard to break a losing habit – not even a tonne of talent can break a habit. The Tigers look to have made the right decision in using Robbie Farah as a ball player. The slick hooker wasn’t out of place at no.7 and combined well with John Morris. Morris certainly works better as the second option rather than the go to man.

The Tigers win sets up a juicy Round 18 clash, where the Wests Tigers travel to Brookvale to take on highly rated Manly in what should be a blockbuster

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