The Panthers overcame a second half Dragons fightback to continue their winning start to the season with a 20-16 victory at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Friday night.
Fiji secondrower Viliame Kikau was the star of Penrith's win as he celebrated his 100th match with two tries but St George Illawarra were their own worst enemies as they completed just 10 of 19 sets of possession in the first half.
In addition, second-rower Jaydn Su'A and centre Zac Lomax had stints in the sin-bin as ill discipline proved costly for the home team.
The scores were locked at 6-6 when Su'A was given his marching orders in the first half but the Panthers led 20-6 when he returned.
The Dragons kept the premiers scoreless in the second half but Penrith did enough to hang on in a tense finish.
Penrith prop James Fisher-Harris (shoulder), winger Brian To'o (knee) and St George Illawarra hooker Andrew McCullough (elbow) were the main injury concerns after all three failed to finish the match.
Match: Dragons v Panthers
Round 2 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
- The Panthers dominated the opening exchanges and had two tries disallowed before Viliame Kikau finally scored in the 10th minute. The Fiji second-rower charged down a Ben Hunt kick and gathered up the ball before racing away to score.
- After defending their line for most of the first quarter, the Dragons were finally able to mount some attacking play following a 40:20 kick from Hunt.
Ben Hunt with a 40/20
- Interchange forward Josh Kerr crossed in the 23rd minute but the try was disallowed due to a double-movement. However, Api Koroisau was offside when he helped make the try saving tackle on Kerry so the home team received a penalty.
- Teen sensation Tyrell Sloan soared above Viliame Kikau and other Penrith defenders to level the scores in the 25th minute with a try from a Hunt bomb.
Super Sloan flies high
- Jaydn Su’A was sin-binned for a late tackle on Sean O’Sullivan after the Panthers halfback had passed the ball. O'Sullivan, who was left on the ground clutching his neck, was ordered from the field for a HIA by referee Chris Sutton on the advice of injury surveillance officials.
Su'A sent to the bin
- George Burgess made his return to the field after coming out of retirement due to a hip injury in the 30th minute but his first act was to concede a penalty for striking Jarome Luai with his elbow after the Penrith five-eighth had kicked the ball. Burgess did not appear to be looking at Luai.
- Panthers prop Spencer Leniu responded to a late decision to move him from the starting side to the bench by crashing over for his team's second try in the 30th minute.
- Kikau scored his second try just three minutes later to inflict further pain on a Dragons side struggling under the weight of errors and having to defend a man short.
Kikau killing it in his 100th
- Su’A helped redeem himself when he sliced between Jarome Luai and Izack Tago to get the Dragons back in the game after Talatau Amone held up pass near the Penrith line in the 53rd minute.
Su'A redeems his sin bin
- The Dragons were again reduced to 12 men when Zac Lomax was sinbinned in the 55th minute after impeding Viliame Kikau as he chased a kick into the in-goal.
- Lomax returned to score a 77th minute try off a Moses Mbye grubber kick to give the Dragons a chance of snatching a late win.
The Dragons setup a grandstand finish
Play of the game
With family members watching on after flying from Fiji to celebrate his 100th NRL match, Penrith strike forward Viliame Kikau charged down a Ben Hunt kick, regathered and scored in the 10th minute.
Kikau gets over in his 100th
What they said
"I was really proud of the way they kept trying to get into the game but we were just way too clunky against that defence, even though we scored three tries. We played 20 minutes with 12 men and they score two barge over tries. The Su'A one, if they are the rules - and they have been the rules - that cost us. To beat them 10-0 in the second half after all we went through was a massive positive for us. It doesn't get you two points tonight but the lesson will get us a few wins down the track": Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.
St George Illawarra Dragons
"The Dragons were coming at us with nothing to lose and it could have ended differently so I was happy with the way we defended at the end of the game. There was a bit of carnage. Fish (shoulder) didn't feel like he could go back on and Biz has done something to his knee,": Panthers coach Ivan Cleary
The Dragons host the Sharks in a local derby at WIN Stadium on Thursday night, while the Panthers travel to Bathurst to take on the Knights at Carrington Park on Saturday afternoon.
St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin will be sweating on the injury report for hooker Andrew McCullough after he suffered a dislocated elbow early in the second half, with Moses Mbye appearing to be his most likely replacement.
Jaydn Su'A hobbled to the sideline in just the sixth minute with a strained foot but later returned and appeared unimpeded by the injury.
Leniu crashes over
The Panthers also suffered major injury blows, with Kiwis prop James Fisher-Harris (shoulder) forced from the field in the 25th minute and star winger Brian To'o (knee) joining him on the sideline eight minutes after halftime with a knee injury.