NRL: Panthers pounce early to blank Dragons

Dean Whare of the Panthers is tackled by Jason Nightingale and Jamie Soward of the Dragons in their NRL clash last night. Photo / Getty Images
Dean Whare of the Panthers is tackled by Jason Nightingale and Jamie Soward of the Dragons in their NRL clash last night. Photo / Getty Images

Dragons 0
Panthers 19

So it wasn't just the Warriors, then. The Penrith Panthers also gave the Dragons a few deep scratches last night, though it was a long way from the bloodbath the Warriors had to endure last week.

Just as well, really. The Warriors broke into smiles after being mauled by the Panthers to the tune of 62 points last week.

If the Red Vs had won this encounter, the Warriors may have had to laugh hysterically when they next met the Dragons.

There wasn't much sign of a Dragons win. The Panthers were again fluid on attack and resolute on defence and had a bit of luck too.

The Dragons were unfortunate to be denied an early try to Bronson Harrison after a bad mistake by Penrith - ruled out because of a dubious obstruction.

It was even more painful when the Panthers coasted 90m upfield, forced a goal line drop out and slickly worked winger Travis Robinson over for a try, converted from the sideline by Luke Walsh.

Minutes later, hooker Kevin Kingston slipped through flimsy Dragons ruck defence to put fullback Matt Moylan away for a 40m gallop under the bar.

That was 12-0 after 10 minutes - and the Warriors may well have been sitting at home, nodding their heads and saying, 'See, that's what we're talking about ... '.

For the Panthers, Tim Grant was the best forward on the field but the oil in their engine is the No7, Luke Walsh. How the Warriors would like an assured master of ceremonies like this.

A former Warrior, stand-off Isaac John matched his more illustrious opposite, Jamie Soward, while Walsh clearly outplayed another former Warrior, Nathan Fien, who had a distinctly off first half.

The Dragons, for so much of this season a bit toothless on attack, didn't get as much out of returning fullback Josh Dugan in the first half as they got last week; they had to grind their way back. They stopped the rot until former Warrior - yes, there's plenty of them - in Lewis Brown pulled a swifty, twisting and ducking down the blindside of the ruck and Kiwi international Dean Whare scored in the corner for an 18-0 lead at halftime. That's 80 points scored in 120 minutes of rugby league with six against.

Brown was in top form until he had to go off with a knee injury, blunting the Panthers' edge a little. He and Walsh had combined to organise Robinson's try and his dance down the tight side of the play-the-ball also set up Whare.

In the second half, the Dragons lifted their urgency and the tempo of the game. Dugan started to make telling inroads and, but for a slightly misdirected pass, he would have scored the try of the match after a sweeping Dragons move started by Harrison, St George's best forward.

The Dragons kept the pressure on remorselessly until a pinpoint Fien kick on the last tackle saw winger Daniel Vidot score what seemed to be a perfectly fair try in the 54th minute - ruled out, again dubiously, by the video referee.

So it wasn't the Dragons' night. A Soward knock-on saw their third try of the night disallowed after Jason Nightingale crossed following yet another blistering run from Dugan - and Walsh wrapped matters up with a field goal.

A scoreline of 19-10 or 19-12 probably would have been fairer but the Panthers controlled matters and deserved the win. And 19-0 will make the Warriors feel a little better.

Dragons 0, Panthers 19 (T. Robinson, M. Moylan, D. Whare tries; L. Walsh 3 goals, field goal). Halftime: 0-18.

- Herald on Sunday

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