Penrith tried hard but the Rabbitohs' outstanding defence proved the difference. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos. Credit: Robb Cox/NRL Photos. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said you could only tip your hats to a Rabbitohs side that produced a near perfect defensive performance to shut out Penrith on Friday evening
It took the visitors over an hour to record a single missed tackle, a remarkable statistic considering the Panthers had seven more sets than their opposition in the first half.
In fact, the home side enjoyed an 8-5 penalty count, a 79 per cent completion rate, and forced eight errors from their counterparts but went into the sheds at halftime locked at 2-all.
"I saw it at halftime, I wasn't sure how accurate it was. You have to take your hats off to them for that, don't you? It doesn't matter who you're playing against, if that's your defensive numbers, you're going to be pretty happy with that," said Cleary.
A downpour of rain minutes from kick-off reduced the match to a gritty affair, but the Panthers had more than enough chances to build a lead in the opening half.
"I didn't think we deserved to lose by that much. Big chunks of the game we gave ourselves a chance to win the game, that's for sure. Probably more than enough," Cleary said.
"We were a little bit unlucky, we had a lot of ball at the start of the game when the conditions were horrendous. We couldn't quite get our game on which I think helped them a bit, they got their defensive rhythm and got confidence out of stopping us a few times.
"Two-all at halftime, we certainly had the better of the first half and then we started too slow in the second half. All of a sudden they had all the possession we had in the first half... At the end of the day we gave away tries too easy. In such a tight game, you just can't give up tries that easy."
The turning point came in the 30th minute when an Adam Reynolds line drop went out on the full. Instead of pushing on for a breakthrough try, the Panthers opted for the two points.
"Yeah, there was a little bit of confusion on that one. I'd actually said... you know, as it turned out. I don't think it had anything to do with anything," Cleary said.
"I felt the first half we were in a position that we were going to eventually get there. But as it turned out, two points in that sort of game... it's always going to be debatable in that set of circumstances but as it turned out it wasn't the winning or losing of the game."