Easy beats only a week ago at the hands of the Brisbane Broncos, the never say die Panthers have hit back well this week against the Bunnies at CUA Stadium, romping home 40-10.
The South Sydney side may have been riddled with injury, but the Penrith side too had their hiccups – with leader Luke Lewis struggling on occasions and with a heavy assault by Souths early on – it looked like it might have been a long night.
But their at times turnstyle defence was much improved this week and the Panthers grew in confidence on the back of a rampaging Frankie Pritchard. This guy is oozing with talent, but you just never know when he will be ‘on’. Well, it was Frankies night last night and with the likes of Michael Jennings chiming in – the Panthers set about correcting their for and against to brush into 8th place as it stands today.
Penrith enjoyed a good amount of possession and their forwards had a highly impressive game; giving their outside men more than enough room on the back of a consistent roll forward. Brad Tighe had a highly improved game, however fullback Jarrod Sammut must remain a concern for coach Matt Elliott.
Sammut can do some amazing things on the Rugby League field, but he is certainly prone to some mishaps too. For every good turn, he seems to spill the ball only moments later and no doubt enemy sides will target this in the weeks ahead.
For Souths, they just ran out of petrol before the first whistle. Limping to the game was injuries to several key players including Asotasi, Crocker, Champion and Talanoa – it was always going to be an uphill battle.
Rookie outside back for Souths Chris ‘Lightning McQueen’ was quickly targeted by the Panthers and they had good success as the new kid spilled several high balls and coughed most that came his way early.
While naturally coach Jason Taylor was dejected with his side eliminated from the NRL Top 8 finals race, he did have something to smile about with rookie NYC player Junior Vaivai promoted to the top grade and having a decent enough showing to give confidence for next year. The Bunnies will need nothing less than a solid start to 2010, with coach Jason Taylor now moving under the spotlight after another year where things fell short.
The Bunnies have a great roster, possibly the envy of the NRL with the likes of Asotasi, Wesser, Crocker, Wing, Sutton and Best all big name experienced players. Their rookie ranks too are very hot with Issac Luke (admittedly a poor 2009 season by his standards), Jamie Simpson and Fetuli Talanoa all great prospects.
In the coaching ranks the Bunnies have big names Gordon Tallis and John Lang assisting and they need to start providing results sooner rather than later.
For Penrith, the win sets up another juicy clash for Top 8 finals honours this week, the Panthers traveling to Parramatta Stadium to meet the in-form Eels. With 35,000 in attendance at the Sydney Football Stadium, there will surely be a near capacity crowd at Parramatta Stadium Friday Night for yet another regular season blockbuster.