Panthers finish strongly to tame Tigers
Penrith are into the Telstra Premiership top eight after a hard-fought but unconvincing 28-14 victory over the Wests Tigers at Pepper Stadium.
Two tries to Kiwi international Dallin Watene-Zelezniak set up the win late in a seesawing contest, before five-eighth Tyrone May put the icing on the cake two minutes out from the siren.
The Panthers led by two points with a quarter of the game remaining but were their own worst enemy throughout the contest with a completion rate hovering around the 60 per cent mark.
It was a spirited performance from the Wests Tigers with James Tedesco at his usual roaming best, while former Panther Matt Eisenhuth was strong against his old club.
A four-pointer on the stroke of half-time to David Nofoaluma reduced Penrith's eight-point lead to just two at the break after an entertaining opening half.
The Panthers regained their advantage six minutes into the second period when fullback Dylan Edwards did it all himself to get on the outside of Tui Lolohea close to the line.
The Tigers were continuing to nag the home side though as the Panthers turned over a chance to extend the lead and allowed Michael Chee Kam to race downfield against the run of play. Luke Brooks finished off the break, splitting between Bryce Cartwright and May to score under the posts.
Penrith continued to enjoy the territory but were finding ways to come up with errors until Corey Harawira-Naera found a way through the Tigers defence to find Waqa Blake and Watene-Zelezniak out wide.
Earlier, both sides went end-to-end in the opening 40 minutes of the contest on the back of expansive play with two tries apiece, despite some poor completion rates.
Penrith looked to have crossed early through five-eighth Tyrone May, until the Bunker ruled Tim Browne had impeded Tigers skipper Aaron Woods in the lead up.
The Bunker intervened again minutes later when Peter Wallace was ruled to have obstructed former Panther Matt Eisenhuth to deny Tyrone Peachey a try.
Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary, taking on the club coached by his father, was soon in on the action when he and Tyrone May linked up to bust up the middle.
While May's final pass went into the hands of Tigers winger David Nofoaluma, Nofoaluma coughed up the ball two plays later for Peachey to pounce and stroll over in the corner.
Nofoaluma ensured he made up for the error six minutes later when Tui Lolohea took on the line on the last tackle before finding the Samoan international who brushed aside Josh Mansour to get the visitors on the board.
The momentum was short-lived for the Wests Tigers with two errors in their own half resulting in Penrith striking back and extending their lead.
Fijian centre Waqa Blake got into some open space after a Cleary pass and sent Dallin Watene-Zelezniak blistering down the sideline to acrobatically plant the ball down in the right corner.
The Panthers were on the attack in the final minutes of play before an error out wide enabled the visitors to go 80 metres in five tackles with Nofoaluma finishing off a brilliant flick pass from centre Esan Marsters.
Penrith's second half was less than inspiring, but their fifth win in a row pushes them into the top eight for the first time this season.
Penrith Panthers 28 (Watene-Zelezniak 2, Peachey, Edwards, May tries; Cleary 4 goals) def. Wests Tigers 14 (Nofoaluma 2, Brooks tries; Lolohea 1 goal) at Pepper Stadium. Half-time: Panthers 10-8. Crowd: 15,780.
NRL.com's unofficial votes: 3 points – Tyrone Peachey; 2 points – James Tedesco; 1 point – Dylan Edwards.