Canberra have come away from CUA Stadium with a gritty hard fought win over Penrith tonight, the Panthers as they usually do handing the victory to the opposing team on a platter. After starting with a promising and enthusiastic showing, the Panthers could not complete a set in the second term and gave away far too much ball to ever win the game.
The game started with a bang, William Zillman showing his blistering pace to slice the Panthers open and give the Raiders a runaway try – the early line-break exposing some miscommunication between Luke Rooney and Maurice Blair, Zillman blazing through with Wesser no where in sight.
With plenty of early ball, the Raiders looked fluid in attack. It wasn’t long before they scored again, this time a sweeping sideline to sideline movement – Canberra putting it through the hands and getting Bronx Goodwin into score in the corner. The try boosting Canberra confidence and showing glimpses of the true Green Machine. With this much ball and confidence the score could have been anything.
Just an interesting as the NRL game, was watching the emotional roller coast that Matt Elliott was riding from the coaches box. As cameras continued to pan over to Elliott the head coach could be seen obviously distraught and feeling every error as much as his player, his team looking ordinary early on.
While Canberra looked eager and enjoyed 65/25 possession early in the match, the Panthers began to see some ball and showed some patches of style themselves. With some field position at hand, Penrith through Waterhouse had a nice charge downfield setting up Reece Wesser to score – Wesser flying through to take a nice second man ball from Jarrod Sammut.
The Panthers were on the board and got a much needed boost. They looked like scoring again soon after, Penrith had the numbers and were certain to barge over – but Joel Monaghan smartly fouled Luke Priddis to slow the play and only cost his team 2 points as the Raiders held together long enough to repel a Panthers raid lacking a final touch of class. With the score at 12-10 to Canberra, it was a period where the game was in the balance. Neither side stood out and the arm wrestle started to play out.
Jarrod Sammut looked sharp at halfback in the first half, constantly lively and trying a few little things that kept the Panthers looking threatening. Sammut punching a nice 40/20 kick on the 29 minute mark to get his team the ball and Brad Tighe capitalizing to score with plenty of room outwide – Penrith getting the lead 16-14.
Matt Elliott would have been fairly happy at half time. When his team had the ball, they looked likely to score and Sammut was warming to his little general role mid-field. The Raiders made things easy for Penrith early in the second half, giving away possession and making basic errors at the play-the-ball to keep the Panthers on top.
As the game approached the 50 minute mark, the Panthers dark discipline problem crept in. Some failed set plays saw Penrith spill the ball several times and with some niggle in the play, the Panthers took the bait and found themselves on the wrong end of penalties.
Alan Tongue and the senior guys at Canberra really dug deep during this period. The game remained in the balance and while it was ugly football and worthy of a wooden spoon battle, it was the work-horses for Canberra that got them home. Points were at a premium in the second half and it wasn’t until Marshall Chalk scored off a sweet backlink movement from Canberra in the 53rd minute that points were registered and it remained that way until the end of the match.
In the final 20 minutes, most of the interest was in watching the reactions from the coaching boxes. Lip reading Matt Elliott and Neil Henry was much more exciting than watching the poor quality Rugby League on show. The Panthers dropping the ball at every occasion and displaying one of the worst completion rates of a half in recent memory, the Raiders unable to capitalize on the possession they had as injury and fatigue set in at their end.
The last play of the night for Penrith summed up their game, with a final chance to sneak home a final play error saw them cough it up again and total 13 errors for the second half, after only make 3 mistakes in the first 40 minutes.
Regardless of the quality, the gritty Canberra Raiders got themselves over the line and register their first win for the 2008 NRL season and consign the Panthers to more pain, as the men from the foot of the mountain scratch their heads yet again.