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Rabbitohs winning streak comes to an end against Panthers

The South Sydney Rabbitohs winning streak has come to an end falling to the Penrith Panthers 25 points to 12 at Suncorp Stadium on Friday evening. 

The Rabbitohs conceded 25 unanswered points after leading 12 points to nil after the opening 30 minutes, with an impressive Panthers outfit dominating field position in the second half from led by NSW halfback Nathan Cleary who controlled the match with his kicking game.

The match started with a finals-like intensity with both sides getting through their work effectively. The first opportunity was created by Cameron Murray who earned his side a penalty with some late footwork at the line troubling the Panthers defenders, and Adam Reynolds slotted the goal for a 2 point lead.

Match Action: Panthers v Rabbitohs

The Rabbitohs had another attacking opportunity shortly after when Dylan Edwards turned the ball over fielding a kick deep in Panthers territory, allowing Cody Walker to create a four-pointer for Dane Gagai on his return from a hamstring strain. Damien Cook held up the Panthers defenders just enough for Walker to find some space on the left edge for Gagain to cross fighting to get the ball to the turf.

The Rabbitohs big guns looked to be on for the match with Damien Cook, who was criticised for his limited run meters in the last matchup against the Panthers probing dangerously out of acting half, and Adam Reynolds producing a pinpoint 40-20 to set up the opportunity for the Rabbitohs second try of the match which was scored by Latrell Mitchell storming onto a Keaon Koloamatangi offload. 

Penrith hit back strongly to end the first forty minutes and change the momentum of the game; a Rabbitohs error provided good starting field position for the Panthers who shifted the ball to their right edge creating some space for makeshift winger Paul Momirovski who put boot to ball back infield finding his halfback Nathan Cleary leading the race and crossing next to the posts.

Keaon Koloamatangi was placed on report for a crusher tackle on Brent Naden shortly after and with the subsequent penalty, the Panthers had the field position to build some more pressure on the Rabbitohs defence. Souths held firm initially, but after conceding another penalty shortly after, Stephen Crichton managed to get across the try line on the stroke of halftime, once again off the boot of Momirovski, bringing the score to 12-10 at the break.

The Panthers dominated possession and territory in the second half with the Rabbitohs pinned against their own line, Penrith were awarded consecutive penalties for an escort on a kick chase followed by a high tackle, and Nathan Cleary threaded a grubber that was cleaned up by Koloamatangi who was trapped in his in-goal. Following another penalty for a high tackle, the Panthers elected to take the two points and level the scores at 12 points all. 

The Panthers were awarded another penalty for a "downtown" penalty for March Nicholls being in front of the kicker on a play where the Rabbitohs appeared to come up with the ball deep inside the Panthers half, only for the ball to be marched 40 meters in the opposite direction for Nathan Cleary to slot a penalty goal for a 2 point lead.

Josh Mansour spilled the ball fielding a Cleary bomb on the next set and Latrell Mitchell picked up the ball from an offside position, and the Panthers scored on the next set through Brent Naden taking the lead to a converted try.

The Rabbitohs had limited opportunities in the second half on the back of an 11-2 penalty count and Nathan Cleary controlled the match with his kicking game, providing the final blow with the NSW halfback kicking a field goal for a 7 point lead to the Panthers with 5 minutes to play. Apisai Koroisau scored a try right on full-time to complete the scorecard, the Panthers running out 25 points to 12 victors.

Press Conference: Panthers v Rabbitohs - Round 23, 2021

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