Nothing comes easy in finals football... Let's play catch up on all the big talking points from the first forty.
Playing a Bit of Footy!
The smoke was still clearing from the pre match fireworks when Adam Reynolds found himself lining up his sides first opportunity at points, electing to take a shot at goal after just two minutes of play. The shot was waved away, which in a strange twist turned out to be a good thing, when minutes later Reyno was again putting boot to ball, this time with a perfectly placed kick over the top for Alex Johnston to score his 23rd try of the season.
The play signalled the intent of the Rabbitohs halves to play some enterprising footy; with the crafty captain staging a short side raid on last play asking questions of the Panthers outside defenders, before fullback Corey Allen won back possession for his side with a heady one on one steal, & Reynolds again played with his eyes up kicking for Johnston early in the set. The Rabbitohs will need all of their tricks against the form side of the regular season to punch a ticket to the big dance next Sunday.
Tackle one perfection from Reynolds
Panthers Struggle to Convert
Penrith will be left to rue several missed opportunities in the first half. The first coming off the back of a break by Jarome Luai who opted for to kick through for his support players only for Alex Johnston to come flying across from his left wing to clean up the right side raid. Minutes later Cleary would bomb an opportunity on the right edge when he threw a cut out pass for intended for Brian To'o, but ending up finding the sideline. Kurt Capewell thought he was through for all money he crossed on the Panthers left, only for the last pass to be deemed ruled forward. While Penrith would eventually breach the Rabbitohs line 12 minutes out from halftime, they’re still right in the fight, and if the last few weeks are anything to go by, there could be plenty of points in the second stanza.
Wayne Bennett doesn’t mind the odd trick shot here and there and tonight put his card’s on the table when he announced an hour out from kick off that Bayley Sironen would be starting at right centre in place of former Panther, Jed Cartwright. When the sides ran out, the fireworks blew over and the smoke cleared, it would be Cameron Murray sitting out in the centre position ready to make an impact on the game. When Sironen (who had been playing in the back row) left the match with a leg injury, Murray was again the man to shift positions, switching to the familiar left edge that he saw some match time earlier in the season. Murray’s versatility has been invaluable time & time again in his career, but never more so than tonight.
Panthers are Showing Their Class
The Penrith Panthers have shown why they where so successful throughout the regular season - particularly through the middle of the park. On average they are making ten meters more per set with the ball in hand than the Rabbitohs, & at times they’ve poured through the middle third of the park with ex Rabbitohs hooker Api Koroisau bringing his forwards across the advantage line. The Halves have been classy with some deft touches & quality kicks, including two that have led directly to tries. They are a good side & the Rabbitohs will have to continue to play footy to get past the post against them.