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Dismal Panthers let down by fundamentals
Penrith coach Matt Elliott didn't have to go far in search of an explanation for his side's dismal 20-16 NRL loss to a gutsy Canberra at CUA Stadium.
"There is an expectation at first grade level, the basic fundamentals of catching and passing the ball are essential things," Elliott lamented.
"It makes it difficult for the other people, you've got to be personally accountable, it makes it difficult for your teammates when you don't do that." Put simply, the Panthers failed to dish up a performance worthy of the NRL.
With the Raiders down to 15 fit players following first-half injuries to William Zillman and prop Scott Logan and the Panthers holding a 16-14 lead, the game was there for Penrith to win.
Instead they handed two vital competition points to the opposition which, going on the night's performance, could come back to bite them with Penrith and the Raiders looking early favourites to battle it out for the wooden spoon.
"The ball control and the errors, it's something that we can't tolerate - it's that simple," Elliott said.
"You're not going to win games, you're not going to give yourself the opportunity to win games." The performance of halfback Jarrod Sammut was the one shining light for the home side, the livewire No.7 unlucky to be denied a spectacular solo try by the video referee that would have given the Panthers a 20-12 lead at the break.
To Canberra's credit they persisted in the face of adversity, luckless fullback Zillman looking headed for his second left knee reconstruction in as many seasons after hobbling off just before halftime.
Logan also failed to return after the break after suffering a suspected cheekbone fracture, but the Raiders put it all behind them with Marshall Chalk scoring what proved to be the only points of the second half when he dived over in the corner after 54 minutes.
"To be reduced to 15 players and play 40 minutes like that, I thought we came out and really controlled possession at the start of the second half ... that pressure field position mounted into errors for Penrith," coach Neil Henry said.
"We probably didn't make the most of our opportunities, we squandered a bit of possession at the back end of sets.
"That's an indication there's some confidence in this group there, I think that was a pretty gutsy performance." Zillman raced 80 metres to score on Canberra's first touch of the ball and, when Bronx Goodwin made it 12-0 after as many minutes, the only real defence was coming from the Panthers fans - both tryscorers were pelted with missiles from the crowd as they dived over.
Sammut was robbed of what seemed a fair four-pointer of his own five minutes later when the video referee found hooker Paul Aiton in an offside position after Sammut had regained his own grubber.
Replays suggested Aiton's impact on the play appeared minimal.