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Penrith pounce on eighth spot with hard-fought win over Wests Tigers
The Dragons have fallen out of the Top 8 for the first time this season after the Panthers scored two late tries to down a brave Tigers outfit 28-14 in front of 15,000 fans at Pepper Stadium.
The Panthers were first to cross the white stripe in the opening stages of the Battle of the West - in fact, they went over twice. Yet, on both occasions, the Bunker would rule an obstruction against the home side. However, Tyrone Peachey would not be denied in the 18th minute when he scooped up a loose pass and sprinted away to cross out wide.
Yet a couple of errors invited the Panthers to extend their lead and they did just that in the 31st minute when a quick, short ball from Nathan Cleary gave Waqa Blake the chance to get on the outside of Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and find Malakai's brother Dallin backing up in support. It appeared as if the Panthers would take a six-point lead into the break. However, a skilful flick pass from Esan Marsters would give Nofoaluma a double and would reduce Penrith's lead to just two points at half time.
The Panthers were first to strike in the second half after Dylan Edwards showed some serious power and pace to break through an attempted tackle by Lolohea. Just when it looked like Penrith would run away with it, the Tigers bounced back when Luke Brooks fooled the Penrith defence with a dummy and ran forty metres to score under the posts.
Neither side seemed to be able to land the final blow yet finally, in the 73rd minute, Corey Harawira-Naera would break through the line and link with Blake in support who would throw a perfect long ball for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to soar over in the corner.
Despite their best efforts, the Tigers would concede one more when three-game rookie Tyrone May took on the line and spun around to score next to the posts in the 78th minute. In the battle of the brothers, it was Dallin finishing well on top, scoring two tries against his brother Malakai.
Ultimately, the full time score line would not reflect how hard the Panthers had to fight, with the home side eventually overcoming a valiant Tigers team 28-14.
Next week the Panthers will look to protect their new spot in the top eight when they come up against the Cowboys at Pepper Stadium on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Tigers will look to spoil Manly's finals ambitions when they host Trent Barrett's men at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Penrith Panthers 28 - Wests Tigers 14
Venue: Panthers Stadium
Halftime Score: Penrith Panthers 10 Wests Tigers 8
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Isaah Yeo
2 points - Dylan Edwards
1 points - David Nofoaluma
PENRITH PANTHERS (28)
Tries: Tyrone Peachey, Dallin Watene Zelezniak (2), Dylan Edwards, Tyrone May
Conversions: Nathan Cleary (4/5)
WESTS TIGERS (14)
Tries: David Nofoaluma (2), Luke Brooks
Conversions: Tuimoala Lolohea (1/3)