Penrith Panthers remain unbeaten this season, after a topsy-turvy 32-28 result against St George Illawarra Dragons tonight at Jubilee Oval.
They needed to dig deep, but Penrith Panthers go to 2-and-0 for the season, after a Stephen Crichton inspired final ten saw them get over the top of an improved St George Illawarra Dragons side that helped combine for 60 points on a bizzare evening at Kogarah.
It looked at certain points, both teams were going to run away with the contest. Panthers lead by 12, Dragons twice led by double digits but the spirit shown by the visitors to rally twice and win back-to-back contests to open the season. Penrith move momentarily to the top of the table after two strong victories.
Nathan Cleary steered the side around expertly in the opening stanza, stepping across for a try after Apisai Koroisau nudged over for the opener to make it 12-nil after 15 minutes primed to continue after their upset against the defending Premiers in the opening round.
Dragons who started on fire last weekend, got back into the contest through Matt Dufty. The recalled fullback snaffled an intercept to go the length, quickly followed by some superb combination work from Jordan Pereira and Brayden Williame, for the latter to cross. Dragons were gifted the lead after an errant Josh Mansour pass was scooped up by Tim Lafai, who sent Zac Lomax over for 16-12 at the break.
The second half was a see-saw affair which saw the lead change thrice. Panthers edged ahead again through Brent Naden before Dufty made it a double then Dragons went back-to-back from an inventive kick by Ben Hunt to find Corey Norman, putting them ahead 28-18.
Panthers refused to concede the contest though, Bill Kikau and Stephen Crichton busted both the Dragons defensive line and their spirit to retake the lead again. Cleary who tonight went to fourth on the all-time Panthers pointscorer's list, added a penalty goal to stretch the margin to four.
Next Thursday the Dragons are in Canberra for Round 3, while Penrith are Melbourne-bound on Saturday week.