Panthers whiz-kid topples Raiders

A pair of tries from Penrith's debutant winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has handed his side a tense 12-6 victory over Canberra in front 7,667 fans at Sportingbet Stadium on Saturday evening.

A torrential downpour in the first half ensured this Heritage Round match fittingly descended into a throwback slog, but not even the difficult conditions would dampen a memorable debut for 18-year-old Watene-Zelezniak. 

In a nervous start, the local product turned the ball over twice and was denied a try on three of his first four touches. 

But the Panthers whiz kid finally had a positive impact with his fifth, finishing off a slick 17th minute right-side shift to touch down in the corner for the first of his two tries.

The home side dominated field position and possession but not even two classy kicks from Penrith five-eighth Jamie Soward – one a booming 40-20 that he followed with a banana kick that forced a repeat set – could be converted on the scoreboard.

However the reborn playmaker was wholly responsible for his side second's try, producing an identical three-man cut out pass to the one that helped win Penrith's last home game, this time helping left winger Josh Mansour cross in the final minute of the first half.

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Moylan's conversion attempt, perhaps affected by the heavy conditions, fell just short as the Panthers headed into half-time with a valuable 8-0 lead.

The Panthers looked to run away with the game in the second half but the contest turned in the 55th minute when Raiders magician Anthony Milford broke the line clean and set up improving forward Paul Vaughan for a 40-metre try. Croker's conversion reduced the margin to just two.

But as the Raiders pressed for another try, Watene-Zelezniak grabbed his second as he latched onto a perfectly-placed Peter Wallace chip in the right corner. Soward's conversion missed, ensuring a tense finish to the game that included the Panthers defending the final five sets of the match.

In a stunning end, Panthers centre Jamal Idris ran 60m after intercepting a Terry Campese pass only to turn the ball over, forcing his team to scramble defensively and close the game. Fittingly it was that kid again, Watene-Zelezniak, who finished the game with ball in hand.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was pleased with a defensive display that shut out the Raiders in the first half, as well as a solid contribution from a halves pairing that played just their second game together. 

"Our goal line defence last week was pretty poor. First three weeks it's been okay but hopefully we can get a little bit of confidence out of that, especially with the game on the line," he said. 

Of Soward's kicking game, Cleary said: "You can't win those games unless you kick well. For big chunks in that second half we were bringing the ball of our own line and they were really ramping up their defence. It wasn't pretty, but we did enough to win.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was proud of his side's ability to stay in the game despite losing second-rower Joel Edwards to concussion in the 7th minute, forcing play to stop for ten minutes. 

"I couldn't be more pleased with the adversity that's been thrown at these guys from game one, where we've had four away of our first five games," he said. 

"... I just gave them an enormous wrap in the change room. They've got a very proud coach because we're really starting to build something here."

Penrith 12 (Watene-Zelezniak 2, Mansour tries; goals) def Canberra 6 (Vaughan try; Croker goal). Crowd: 7,667.