Roosters down resilient Panthers
The Sydney Roosters have bounced back from their loss to rivals South Sydney, defeating the Penrith Panthers 20-12 in a huge clash between two title contenders at Allianz Stadium on Monday night.
The Panthers did little wrong in this match, but were outplayed by a team featuring superstars across the park.
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WATCH: Penrith's magic try
WATCH: Full match highlights
WATCH: Trent Robinson and Mitchell Pearce discuss their side's win
WATCH: Ivan Cleary and Peter Wallace address the media
Match stats, scores, highlights
This contest may well have marked the second coming of explosive centre Blake Ferguson. Evoking memories of the Raiders star that rose to prominence in 2013 to earn selection in the NSW Origin team, Ferguson was at his bruising best against Penrith. Interestingly, Ferguson's last NRL match before debuting for the Roosters this year was at the same ground against the Tricolours in 2013, when he almost singlehandedly beat his current club for the Raiders, scoring two tries.
Fast-forward two years and it was a similar performance against the Panthers for the returning Ferguson, scoring two tries, and making three line breaks, six tackle busts and 165 metres in a polished all round performance that also featured some effective rushing defence.
Following the match, coach Trent Robinson praised the performance and mindset of his centre.
"I thought Blake was really good when he got his opportunities," Robinson said.
"He's so keen to play well for us and he's trying so hard to do everything we're asking."
This match was not without controversy, however. It came in the 20th minute as the Panthers looked to have scored a marvellous try. With quick hands from the Panthers backline, the ball was moved across field and into the hands of young gun Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who went flying into the corner with the ball grasped in his outstretched hand.
Then, to make the scene even more spectacular, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck decided to acrobatically leap into the corner and meet Watene-Zelezniak at full stretch. Tuivasa-Sheck appeared to have failed in stopping the Panthers winger planting the ball in the corner. But the video referee didn't find enough evidence to overturn the on-field call of no try, to the obvious dissatisfaction of the Panthers and their supporters in attendance.
That try could have tied the match up early on after a superb Maloney cut-out ball had found an unmarked Shaun Kenny-Dowall to give the Roosters first points in the match after seven minutes.
The Panthers eventually hit back though, just before the close of the half. Josh Mansour was the star, rising up above Kenny-Dowall to claim a perfectly placed cross-field kick from Peter Wallace. As he fell back down to earth Mansour managed to drop the ball back out to a waiting Jamal Idris who dove over to score in the corner.
It was the second big play from the Kangaroos winger in a matter of minutes after he had evaded multiple tackles in a surging run to put the Panthers in good field position. Moylan converted from the sideline to make it a two-point game at half-time after a Maloney penalty goal had taken Roosters to 8-0.
Mansour was an absolute superstar in the first half, breaking 12 tackles and making plenty of metres in his first game back from shoulder and ankle surgery.
Ferguson opened the scoring in the second stanza, scoring his first try in his return to the NRL in the 44th minute. He was at it again soon after when Pearce passed out to Maloney who did very well to catch and pass to Ferguson in one motion. Ferguson juggled and claimed the ball above his head before dummying to his winger and diving over for another try.
James Segeyaro had a very strong second half, including a try in the 66th minute. Matt Moylan pierced through the line 40 metres out thanks to a well-worked play around the ruck, before he found his hooker in support who crossed untouched under the posts.
The Panthers couldn't complete their comeback though, allowing the Roosters to claim a well-earned victory to finish PlayNRL round.
After the match, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said his team showed some good signs and also disagreed with the Watene-Zelezniak no-try decision.
"I thought it was a try," Cleary said.
"It was a completely different game to what we have played so far this year.
"[There were] too many mistakes but it was encouraging."
Sydney Roosters 20 (Ferguson 2, Kenny-Dowall tries; Maloney 4 goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 12 (Idris, Segeyaro tries; Moylan 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 10,735.