Penrith remains undefeated in season 2022 and denies South Sydney their chance of revenge, downing the Rabbitohs 26-12 in a fiery Grand Final rematch at Bluebet Stadium.
Nathan Cleary made a successful return to the side but it was Dylan Edwards who stole the show for the home side.
It looked to be a long night for the visitors when their poor discipline set Penrith up with quality field position early. From there, Penrith sent it to their left edge where Viliame Kikau linked up with Jarome Luai who found open space before linking up with Izack Tago to score the opening try to give them first blood. Souths' handling concerns in their first two losses reared their ugly head once more, repeatedly giving golden field position to the premiers. It wasn't long before Souths cracked and some poor defending on their right edge saw Luai and Cleary linking up with Stephen Crichton for the home side's second try and an early 8-0 lead.
Souths worked their way into the match and found some luck of their own down the right edge, which saw Campbell Graham collect a lovely ball from Lachlan Ilias and get on the outside of Tago to get the visitors back in the contest and cut the deficit to just two points. But, risky play inside South's own 20 saw Keaon Koloamatangi come up with an error. Penrith resumed to normal transmission when Viliame Kikau combined with Taylan May and Penrith had their third try of the contest. Nathan Cleary had an unseasonal off-night with the kicking tee and it kept Souths in the contest.
Ilias thought he got Souths back in the contest but the video referee spotted an obstruction as Thomas Burgess runs to the outside shoulder and makes contact, thus taking away his first try in the top grade. At the end of the opening 40, Penrith held a narrow 12-6 advantage.
Straight after half-time, the feeling that was evident in the first 40 minutes really took off. Jarome Luai was penalised for taking Jai Arrow out of the tackle illegally and you could see that both sides were up for it. Cleary's control of the game was evidently missing in the last two matches which saw opposition teams make late charges. Off the back of repeated sets forced by the man himself, Penrith converted at last when May scored his second try of the night - his fifth in just two games. Ilias made contact with the head of May as he scored which constituted a rare 'possible eight point try'. Cleary converted both goals and Penrith was up by 20-6.
With Latrell Mitchell getting involved, Souths had to be next to score, and off the back of Latrell's quick hands, Alex Johnston found space and linked up with Cody Walker who crossed for a vital try. Mitchell's conversion cut the margin to 8 points and the game was there for South Sydney to take. But once again, the Bunnies made too many mistakes, and off the back of a mountain of defensive work, Jarome Luai skipped and danced around the South Sydney defence before putting boot to ball and finding returning back-rower Liam Martin to put the game beyond doubt at 26-12.
Dylan Edwards' defensive efforts were the main highlight of this match with not one, but two incredible try savers stopping certain South Sydney raids on Penrith's line, going a long way to ensuring the Panthers retained their long-term undefeated record at Bluebet Stadium - a venue they haven't lost a game at since July 2019..
Penrith will head along the M4 to CommBank Stadium in nine days time and take on the Bulldogs, where their opponents will no doubt have plenty to play for given the recruiting raids in the off-season. Souths meanwhile, will lick their wounds and return home to Accor Stadium and take on the St George Illawarra Dragons next round.