Penrith Panthers have moved to the top of the NRL Premiership with a bruising 20-12 win against the South Sydney Rabbitohs tonight at Kogarah oval.
The Panthers continue to pass each test, as the weeks go on in 2020. After they edged past the Storm, now they handled the Rabbitohs with ease, led by a powerhouse performance from their forward pack, some guile from the halves added up to their fifth win of the season.
Whilst Nathan Cleary sported a band-aid which hampered his goal-kicking, the halfback guided the Panthers around to their latest conquest. Cleary has looked a man-on-a-mission since his return from suspension, set up two tries and scored a late four-pointer himself to solidify the Panthers as a Premiership threat this season.
Much has been talked of the Panthers right-side this year with justification but tonight it was to the left, to the left as Beyonce sang for the Panthers. Replacement winger Brent Naden scored the opener and they terrorised the Rabbitohs defense all night. Naden almost had a double in the opening 20 minutes but it seems whoever comes in for the Panthers strikes gold for the Mountain Men.
There were times where the former 'chocolate soldiers' might have wilted under the pressure from Rabbitohs in the second half but the Panthers continued to show up every set in defense and combined with some stellar kicking from Cleary gave the Rabbitohs no chance tonight.
Dylan Edwards and Stephen Crichton added four-pointers either side of the break which kept the Rabbitohs at arms-length all night. Edwards has shown since his return from injury, he is the Panthers choice at fullback with his pinballed effort for a try and a safe night under the high ball.
On the Rabbitohs, they remain an enigma. When they were on against bottom feeders, the Rabbitohs piled on 72 points but failed their challenge against a contender tonight. They fumbled their way through the first half with Latrell Mitchell, a key culprit, but it was a tough night for the cardinal-and-myrtle who ended with 11-men on the field.
A superb line from Bayley Sironen brought it back to 8-6 just after the break, but the eight-point margin at full-time, flattered the Rabbitohs. A late Alex Johnston flying effort kept the streak of close margins between the sides but tonight, the gap between the contenders and the pretenders showed.
There is plenty for the Rabbitohs to work on, if they want to challenge this season. Jaydn Su'A gave them punch but there wasn't enough thrown at the Panthers defense alongside a litany of fumbling players that made it a forgettable night.
Next week the Bunnies are away to the Bulldogs, while the Panthers visit the Wests Tigers. Both matches in Round 8 are set for Bankwest Stadium.