Panther blitz sinks woeful Tigers
Penrith have one foot into the 2016 finals series while Wests Tigers' finals hopes are all but extinguished after a huge 40-10 loss to the Panthers at Pepper Stadium on Friday night.
Desperately needing a win against fellow fringe finalists Penrith, the Tigers put in a hugely disappointing defensive display, conceding a number of soft four-pointers in the seven-tries-to-two avalanche as Penrith ran amok.
The result effectively leaves the Titans and the Warriors vying for the last finals position with Penrith's positive differential and 28 points almost certain to see them through. The Tigers would need two big wins and other favourable results to go their way to have any chance of seeing September football.
For Penrith, halves Bryce Cartwright and Nathan Cleary were both excellent and complemented each other well, making the return of Te Maire Martin this season highly unlikely.
Desperately needing a positive start the Tigers got exactly that when Moses burst through a gap running off a questionable Woods short ball before firing a quality cut-out pass to hand the recalled Josh Addo-Carr opening points in just the sixth minute.
That was about as good as it got for the visitors though as the home team went on a first-half rampage, on the back of a 65 per cent of possession rate and twice as many completed sets.
The Tigers defence was reduced to a rabble as five-eighth Cartwright reached deep into his bottomless bag of tricks and rookie half Cleary time and again sent towering, floating, swirling bombs deep into the night sky to torment stand-in fullback Jordan Rankin and rookie winger Addo-Carr.
A clean break from a kick return by winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – who split Tim Simona and Addo-Carr – allowed him to show off his blistering pace before a neat one-handed pass put Waqa Blake over for Penrith's first try after 11 minutes.
Cartwright scored the second just seven minutes later when he came back in on the angle to shrug off some poor defence next to the sticks. A huge running set just six minutes later – kick-started by a typical Josh Mansour burst – got the Tigers backpedalling before Isaah Yeo picked out Kevin Naiqama one-on-one and burst through for a 16-4 lead after 25 minutes.
Cartwright was heavily involved just four minutes later at the end of the next set after points; he chased through on his own pinpoint bomb to force a repeat set before handing off a beautiful inside ball to Reagan Campbell-Gillard to power through some more insipid defence.
Right on the stroke of half-time a ruck penalty against the Tigers allowed Penrith a final attacking chance and Peter Wallace made it look too easy from dummy-half as he planted the ball under the cross-bar to complete a first-half rout, taking a commanding 28-4 lead to the sheds.
The Tigers needed an early try after the break to have any hope of staging a miracle fightback and while they were able to force a repeat set Penrith held firm and instead stretched their lead further when the impressive Trent Merrin spun through an attempted tackle at the line.
A beautiful catch-and-pass from Cleary to send James Fisher-Harris over had pundits reaching for the record books at 40-4 with over 20 minutes to go but with the result sealed some sting went out of the game.
Some brilliant solo work from Mitch Moses – arguably his side's best on a dour night – saw him accelerate through the tiniest of gaps to earn his team's second four-pointer and a 40-4 final score.
Back-rower Chris Lawrence was carried off with a knee injury at the 60-minute mark following a collision with Josh Mansour.
Penrith Panthers 40 (Blake, Cartwright, Yeo, Campbell-Gillard, Wallace, Merrin, Fisher-Harris tries; Cleary 6 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 10 (Addo-Carr, Moses tries; Moses goal) at Pepper Stadium. Half-time: Penrith 28-4. Crowd: 14,876.