Even if the talking points leading into the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs clash were not on the game itself, Penrith fans will be pleased about the win.
With Latrell Mitchell in recent good form for the Rabbitohs and Nathan Cleary spending time in hospital during the week, fans were talking about it all.
The game itself could have been anything and despite the 20-12 scoreline, Penrith were the far superior team.
It started early with Brent Naden, a late inclusion, scoring in the corner after a tap-back, a bobble of a shin, a cut-out pass and an overlap.
It could have been a quickfire hat-trick for Naden, had it not been for a disallowed try and some steely Rabbitohs defence.
Caught offside again soon after, Jarome Luai would get his second assist of the game.
This time, the crafty half grubbered ahead for Stephen Crichton to pounce on a loose ball.
The try had many fans questioning the defensive positioning of Mitchell, who was soundly beaten by the Panthers centre.
Try as they might, neither team added to the scoreline before the break; both coaches with higher expectations.
It was the Rabbitohs who started the brighter of the two.
On the back of several repeat sets, a lovely inside pass from Adam Reynolds found a bullocking Bayley Sironen to barge over.
That Rabbitohs try lit a fire in the belly of the Panthers team, though.
First, Dylan Edwards cut through some wafer-like defence from the Rabbitohs to score.
Surprisingly, despite their three tries, Cleary’s kicking radar was off and the Panthers went up 12-6.
The night only went from bad to worse for the Bunnies with centre James Roberts sin-binned.
Roberts, who had only come on just before for Dane Gagai, tackled Crichton off the ball and was sin-binned for the professional foul.
Cleary would then have a dart himself and succeed, putting the game to bed for the Panthers.
Though the drama was not over. The Rabbitohs would have another man sent to the sin-bin.
This time, it was Mitchell. That and his four errors capped off a disappointing display on his part.
Though still fighting, the Rabbitohs pulled a late try back through Alex Johnston after Walker’s cut-out pass.
In the end, the scoreline did not reflect the game itself.
There was no mincing of the words from Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett.
His side was not good enough, could not capitalise on opportunities and it cost them.
“They just controlled the ball better than we did, gave themselves better field position and that’s the opportunities you get,” he said.
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Jarome Luai
2. Nathan Cleary
- Bayley Sironen