Battle of the struggling NRL Coaches

NRL Round 23, 2007
Penrith Panthers 46 def Newcastle Knights 12

Forget the race for the wooden spoon, this was really was a battle of the struggling coaches, with Matt Elliott coming away the winner – the winner of less media attention as the pressure remains on the Newcastle Knights boss Brian Smith.

Penrith showed even more glimpses of what they are capable of today; a lot of the energy and eagerness coming from new fullback Jarrod Sammut. The blonde bombshell continues to play above his weight and displays commitment far greater than most. On top of this; he has a killer sidestep and blistering speed – something all NRL teams would love.

Penrith were near full strength with old stagers Luke Priddis and Tony Puletua getting spots to try and revive their NRL futures. Priddis was tireless in his efforts today; he was back to his probing self at dummy half – but also backed up on many occasions, only not receiving the final pass from his team mates.

The outside backs for Penrith were lethal – Michael Jennings in particular was light on his feet and showed good decision making – amongst wet and dicey conditions too. Fringe running forward Frank Pritchard was also in the money – both him and Jennings getting triples and Pritchard proving a problem for the Knights out wide on most touches.

While credit must go to Penrith; really the Knights did help the opposition cause. As possession mounted, so did the pressure and rather than build up and lay a platform – the Knights continued to hit the panic button and virtually self destructed. Admittedly the bounce of the ball didn’t go their way today; and the copped some seriously bad calls early which didn’t help – but their reads in defence were shocking and on many occasions they simply gave up.

Zeb Taia in particular was caught out several times in the defence line – it was though the Knights had just met each other the night before in a bar. No talk, no idea.

The loss keeps the spotlight on Brian Smith and the Newcastle outfit – the season end will be their best friend, as injuries and media attention has made their NRL 2007 season one to forget.

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