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A comprehensive second half performance from Penrith has complicated the race for the final eight even more, the Panthers ending South Sydney's final hopes with a 40-10 victory at CUA Stadium tonight.
In what the South Sydney Rabbitohs had internally billed as their own "grand final", they started positively but meekly defended their honour as the Panthers capitalised on an 18-10 halftime lead to score 22 unanswered points in the second stanza. The Rabbitohs opened the scoring after six minutes, young centre Junior Vaivai touching down on debut to give his side the early advantage. Poor defence on their own line cost them minutes later, the Panthers posting back-to-back tries to take a 12-4 lead.
The Rabbitohs drew within two points following a dummy-half special from Issac Luke, but from there it was all Penrith. A try to Bulldog-bound Junior Tia-Kilifi (his second of the night) extended Penrith's lead to eight before the break.
The second half saw the possession tilt heavily in the Panthers favour. Four unmatched tries got the home side across the line, and they eventually dominated possession by 64% as Jennings, Aiton, Gordon and Brad Tighe all crossed for four pointers. Frank Pritchard was denied a four pointer at one point due to a forward pass, but still dominated with every run and had a hand in a couple of the Panthers' tryscoring plays.
The victory sets up another bumper Friday night clash next week, the Penrith Panthers going on to face the Eels at Parramatta Stadium. Judging by tonights efforts though, the Rabbitohs will play the Dragons back into form next Saturday night at ANZ Stadium.
Match Details Penrith Panthers 40 def South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 Round 24 - Saturday August 22nd, 2009 07:30pm Venue: CUA Stadium, Penrith Referee: Gavin Badger & Bernard Sutton Sideline Officials: Gavin Reynolds & Jeff Younis Video Referee: Tim Mander Crowd: 14,214 Halftime: Penrith Panthers 18 South Sydney Rabbitohs 10
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Talk about the game as it happens - Panthers v Rabbitohs forum discussion - click here!
Like many matches this weekend it's do or die at CUA Stadium tonight - last roll of the dice, moreso for the Rabbitohs as they currently sit three points out of the eight following results so far in Round 24. The Panthers are coming off two poor defensive performances against first the Dragons and most recently Brisbane, who put 40 unanswered points on them in the second half.
On the team front, the Panthers have re-shuffled their forwards and backs and bench around a little, while the Bunnies are 1-17 as per program. The teams are:
PANTHERS: 1. Jarrod Sammut 2. Junior Tia Kilifi 3. Michael Jennings 4. Brad Tighe 5. Michael Gordon 6. Wade Graham 7. Luke Walsh 8. Frank Puletua 17. Maurice Blair 18. Adam Woolnough 11. Trent Waterhouse 12. Frank Pritchard 13. Luke Lewis Interchange: 9. Paul Aiton 10. Matthew Bell 14. Nathan Smith 16. Joseph Paulo RABBITOHS: 1. Nathan Merritt 2. Jamie Simpson 3. Colin Best 4. Junior Vai Vai 5. Chris McQueen 6. John Sutton 7. Chris Sandow 8. Luke Stuart (c) 9. Issac Luke 10. Scott Geddes 11. Ben Lowe 12. Eddy Pettybourne 13. David Fa'alogo Interchange: 14. Beau Falloon 15. Shannan McPherson 16. David Tyrrell 17. Jaiman Lowe
Kickoff coming up shortly.
Teams are out... ready for a start...
2 min: Penrith capture a fifth tackle bomb on the Souths line and spread it wide, then it's put on the toe and the Bunnies outside men combine to spill the ball into touch. Penrith scrum inside the Souths 20m.
4 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Panthers try. Maurice Blair has crashed over. Everyone including him thinks he's held up, looks like he's made a second effort in it though, might be a Bunnies penalty. Decision pending. NO TRY. Double movement ruled, PENALTY Rabbitohs coming off their own line.
6 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs A fantastic break from Issac Luke, he's brought down 15m out and the Rabbitohs simply play the numbers to the left and Junior Vaivai has his first try in his debut game! Conversion attempt by Chris Sandow unsuccessful. South Sydney Rabbitohs 4-0
9 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Panthers try. The bomb works again for Penrith, the Rabbits spill it and it's six again. They go to the left themselves, and Tia-Kilifi is over in the corner. Just checking if he made it inside the corner post. Looks the goods...
10 min: TRY Penrith Panthers The try is awarded. We might be playing senior level NRL but the Junior's are the two with their names on the scoreboard, Tia-Kilifi awarded the try in the corner for Penrith just minutes after Vaivai's try on debut for Souths. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 6-4
12 min: Fantastic hustle from the Panthers chase on tackle five, three of them combining to nail Jamie Simpson in-goal to force a line drop out.
14 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Wade Graham runs a beautiful back-up play with Frank Pritchard and it's Graham in next to the posts crosses for Penrith. Not much in the way of line defence from either club so far this evening, the scoreboard ticking over at more than a point per minute early on. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 12-4
19 min: South Sydney struggling to make metres in their own half before getting a good kick away. Sammut picks it up and bounces off a Chris Sandow shoulder-charge attempt before dashing 30 more metres... then drops it. Souths scrum just inside the Penrith half.
21 min: The Bunnies can't get across the line on the fifth despite a positive cross-field kick. The Panthers making good metres off the return set.
23 min: Sandow holds the ball out ala Johnathan Thurston in front of the Penrith line on tackle five, on his own forty... and gives it wide. Simpson, now out to Vaivai, he kicks ahead, lots of confidence from the debutant, and Sammut has to force it dead. Drop-out.
24 min: PENALTY Rabbitohs, another set for the Bunnies on Penrith's line.
25 min: Sammut plays at a fifth tackle grubber, Rabbits with another six. Penrith's defence stretched to the hilt.
26 min: TRY South Sydney Rabbitohs Issac Luke crashes over from dummy-half and Penrith's resistance has finally cracked. South Sydney now edge within two points. Conversion attempt by Chris Sandow successful. Penrith Panthers 12-10
32 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Wade Graham spots Junior Tia-Kilifi unmarked out wide and throws a huge cut-out pass. The young winger grabs a double in the corner! Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 18-10
36 min: The Panthers run the ball on the last but Graham's last ball dribbles forward to Tia-Kilifi.
38 min: Souths put a long ball into touch and walk to the scrum, sucking in the big ones as halftime approaches. Panthers feed on their own ten.
39 min: Penrith with some flamboyant stuff up the middle but Sandow manages an intercept and the Bunnies have a chance starting a new set on halfway as we edge toward the break.
40 min: Vaivai makes a meal of the play-the-ball on tackle five. Badger rules a scrum and it looks like we won't get time to set it, although Penrith pack it. Panthers on their own twenty with as many seconds left on the clock.
HALFTIME: Penrith Panthers 18 South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 Flashes of brilliance from both teams so far in the closing instalment of Super Saturday - the Bunnies opened the scoring but conceded back-to-back tries almost immediately after. Both teams looks dangerous when near the opposition line but line defence continues to be an issue. Penrith's execution has been slightly better and that sees them in front at the break. A true cliche in every sense of the word - but this is definitely anyone's game going into the second half.
Second half underway... third tackle and Luke Lewis has gone down terribly attempting a tackle on the Rabbitohs ball carrier. Play has been called off, he lost consciousness briefly.
41 min: Lewis is escorted from the field, Pritchard will replace him. South Sydney resume play.
42 min: South Sydney caught on the last inside their own half, Penrith to attack from 30m out following a handover.
46 min: Not much doing for either side so far, end-to-end stuff. Now the Rabbits let it loose on halfway - Panthers feed.
48 min: PENALTY Panthers, right on the Rabbitohs line!
49 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Panthers try. Aiton crashes over at dummy half. Little doubt, just checking grounding. Decision pending...
50 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Paul Aiton clambers over a couple of weak tackle attempts from the Rabbitoh defenders to extend Penrith's lead. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 24-10
51 min: Perfectly placed kick from the Panthers allows the Penrith chasers to force Merritt in-goal. Drop-out now, this could be the end of the Bunnies both tonight and for the season...
52 min: Pritchard is in for the Panthers!!! No he's not... it's been called forward! Lucky break for South Sydney, keeps them in the game, albeit briefly...
55 min: TRY Penrith Panthers The Panthers stringing together some good second phase play, Waterhouse offloading for Tighe, who gets it on to the winger Michael Gordon. The result beyond doubt now with 25 minutes left, Penrith playing for their points-differential. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon unsuccessful. Penrith Panthers 28-10
59 min: Poor fifth tackle option from the Rabbits after they make a break down the left flank - Simpson puts it on the toe but it almost completely misses his foot and the Panthers cover defence picks the ball up and Tighe takes a Gordon offload and makes a good ten metres before he's stopped.
61 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Walsh links up with Frank Pritchard, he draws the defender and offloads for Tighe, he's got Gordon on his inside but he won't need him! He bounces off the feeble tackle attempts by the Rabbitohs defence and slams the ball down, it's a try for Brad Tighe! Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 34-10
65 min: Rabbitohs centre Junior Vaivai drops the ball just inside the Panthers half, the home side earns a scrum feed.
67 min: TRY Penrith Panthers He's been quiet tonight... until now. New South Wales representative centre Michael Jennings explodes into action, scoring a scintillating try under the posts and it's all purely academic now. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 40-10
69 min: Waterhouse is in open space, the cover comes across as Trent offloads to Jarrod Sammut who spills it. Waterhouse is down and looks a little injured.
71 min: PENALTY Panthers - Sammut picks up the ball and he's been taken around the head-neck area. Another chance to attack for the home side who seem to be scoring at will.
73 min: A few last passes not sticking for the Panthers as proceedings become a little slower, the result well beyond doubt.
74 min: A break down the right side by Souths, McQueen gets it on to Simpson and they push it away in-field but it's gone to Frank Pritchard, Penrith with the ball on halfway.
75 min: The Panthers kick on five and force another set.
77 min: An error coming out of their own end sees Souths hand the ball to Penrith in attacking territory. Execution not the greatest from Penrith since the last try.
78 min: PENALTY Panthers - the Panthers manage a deflection on the fifth tackle kick. Sandow then gets in the road of the play the ball on the restarted tackle count and is penalised.
79 min: No luck on the fifth for tonight's victors, Merritt bursts out of the in-goal after fielding the kick for the Bunnies. Just the one set of six left in the game, South Sydney take it upfield.
FULLTIME: Penrith Panthers 40 South Sydney Rabbitohs 10 Penrith came here with a point to prove tonight after their drubbing at the hands of Brisbane last week, and prove it they did. A convincing 40-10 victory for the home side, South Sydney offering nothing in the second stanza that Penrith couldn't handle. A game that largely came down to possession and the Panthers clearly dominated that statistic.