Spectacular performances from Penrith duo Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Bryce Cartwright helped the Panthers outclass the Rabbitohs 20-6 at Pepper Stadium on Friday night.
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Confident Cartwright just getting started
Rabbitohs fail with second-half fundamentals
With Watene-Zelezniak and Cartwright shining with ball in hand, it was Penrith's goal line defence which reigned supreme over a Rabbitohs team who had no answers for the wall of black jerseys ahead of them – despite the eventual winners missing 40-plus tackles.
While the Rabbitohs did everything right but score in the first half, after completing at 93 per cent with no errors, they unravelled after halftime with Joel Reddy's consolation try in the 73rd minute the only points they could manage.
It only took Penrith 10 minutes to score their first when fullback Watene-Zelezniak came up with the goods. Coming from a Jamie Soward kick, winger Waqa Blake was able to leap over opposite winger Reddy before offloading it between the legs of Sika Manu for Watene-Zelezniak to pick up the scraps and score.
A runaway Cartwright helped pave the way for the Panthers second try in the 25th minute. With the back-rower choosing to run it on the last, he flicked the ball out to Soward, who initiated a backline movement with Peter Wallace for Dean Whare to score.
While the home side held on to an 8-0 lead at half-time, the Rabbitohs were somewhat unlucky not to score one of their own just 40 seconds from halftime when fullback Alex Johnston was ruled to be held before being penalised for offloading off the ground to a rampaging Bryson Goodwin who managed to cross the white stripe all for naught.
Two crucial errors from South Sydney's Tom Burgess pushed the Panthers cause again, which paid off for them in the 50th minute when their captain Wallace, who outpaced Rabbitohs' Johnston to get a hand on a Soward grubber kick.
A misfired kick from Adam Reynolds allowed Panthers forward Tyrone Peachey to pick up the scraps and run 60 metres down field. It would inspire a Blake try in the 62nd minute when he dove over in the corner to extend his team's lead to 18.
While Reddy's try would bring some relief – to prevent the Rabbitohs' first scoreless game in five seasons – a penalty from former Rabbitoh Apisai Koroisau sealed an unlikely 14-point victory for the Panthers.
Making matters worse for South Sydney, Dave Tyrrell was stretched off after colliding heads with opposite hard man Nigel Plum, while stand-in captain John Sutton was later taken off with a suspected biceps complaint.
Penrith Panthers 20 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare, Peter Wallace, Waqa Blake tries; Apisai Koroisau 2 Goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 6 (Joel Reddy Try; Adam Reynolds Goal) at Pepper Stadium. Crowd: 14, 068. Half-time: Panthers 8-0.