Panthers claim share of top spot with win over Wests Tigers
Nathan Cleary and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak have won out in the family bragging rights as Penrith cruised to a 16-2 victory over the Wests Tigers in a penalty-riddled contest at Panthers Stadium on Thursday night.
A total of 22 penalties were blown, with the game failing to live up to its hype after a strong build up in front of 15,081 fans at the foot of the mountains.
In the end, the Panthers showed enough control to secure their eighth win of the Telstra Premiership season.
Cleary showed no ill effects of a knee injury which has kept him sidelined for eight weeks to settle back into the Panthers halves alongside James Maloney – the pair doing enough to put their combination back in the frame for Holden State of Origin with NSW.
Despite a healthy completion rate in the opening half, the Tigers were their own worst enemies in the second stanza. They were starved of the ball and forced to repeatedly defend their line.
Match: Panthers vs Wests Tigers
Venue: Panthers Stadium
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Nevertheless, their inability to score a four-pointer in the loss will concern coach Ivan Cleary heading into next week's clash with the Bulldogs.
A penalty goal to the visitors early was all they could conjure as Penrith levelled within minutes before later scoring 14 unanswered points.
Both sides struggled with discipline in the opening half, with 13 penalties blown as Penrith defied being a man down with Trent Merrin the first in the sin bin for repeated infringements.
The call didn't fluster the home side, with Cleary capping his return with a grubber kick placed perfectly for Tyrone Peachey.
Merrin's spell in the sheds only seemed to lift the home side, with interchange prop James Tamou breaking the Wests Tigers' line before a Maloney cut-out pass sent Tyrone Phillips over in the corner in spectacular fashion the following play.
Tigers forward Alex Twal was next to be sent to the bin as the penalty count continued to soar.
A dire second half with just two penalty goals could have been worse for the visitors - the Panthers were denied three four-pointers in the 14-point win.
News & Notes: Nathan Cleary made a successful return from a knee injury that has sidelined him for eight weeks ... The Panthers recorded their best start to a season since 2003 ... Sauaso Sue left the field for a HIA assessment in the first half but returned after the break ... The Penrith crowd of 15,081 was the highest attendance for a Thursday night clash at Panthers Stadium ... music sensation Joe Jonas and Glee star Darren Criss attended the fixture ... James Maloney recorded his 11th win in 11 games at Panthers Stadium.