The Panthers proved too strong for the Rabbitohs in the grand final re-match to continue their unbeaten start to the season with a 26-12 win at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.
With star playmaker and co-captain Nathan Cleary playing his first match since last year's grand final after undergoing a shoulder reconstruction and James Fisher-Harris and Liam Martin returning from injury, the premiers got off to a flying start and were never headed.
Match Highlights: Panthers v Rabbitohs
It was a high quality match but Penrith's scrambling defence repeatedly denied Souths, with fullback Dylan Edwards involved in a number of trysaving tackles.
Match: Panthers v Rabbitohs
Round 4 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
- The match started at a frantic pace with Penrith centre Izack Tago scoring in just the second minute after Jarome Luai got around Latrell Mitchell and passed to his rookie team-mate.
- Fellow Panthers centre finished a movement on the other side of the field in the 11th minute after the quick hands of Isaiah Yeo, Nathan Cleary and Dylan Edwards created an overlap for the grand final hero.
- Souths centre Campbell Graham got his side back in the game when he sliced between Tago and his left edge wing partner Taylan May to score in the 15th minute.
May made amends just three minutes later when he scored in the corner after Viliame Kikau held up a pass near the Rabbitohs line. The try followed a dropped ball by Souths second-rower Keaon Koloamatangi in the set after the kick-off.
South Sydney's lethal left kicks into gear
- Rookie Rabbitohs halfback Lachlan Ilias appeared to have levelled the scores when he stepped past Isaah Yeo and James Fisher-Harris to score but the try was disallowed because of an obstruction call against Tom Burgess.
Back-to-back trysaving tackles by Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards on Taane Milne and Cameron Murray ensured the premiers went to halftime with a 12-6 lead.
- Taylan May scored his second try in the 49th minute after another display of quick hands by the Panthers on the last tackle and the Panthers received an eight-point try after May copped the boot from Lachlan Ilias in the face as he dived across the line.
Just as he did in the grand final, Cody Walker hit back for the Rabbitohs after starting and finishing a 62nd minute movement in which he linked with Taane Milne and Alex Johnston before backing up on the inside to score.
- Liam Martin secured the win in the 70th minute when he pounced on a grubber kick from Jarome Luai, who had stepped out of the tackle of Lachlan Ilias.
Play of the game
Taylan May's second try in the 49th minute was the result of quick hands by Panthers playmakers Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai to get the ball to strike second-rower Viliame Kikau but the rookie winger still had a lot of work to do himself. Receiving the pass from Kikau near the Rabbitohs line after the Panthers decided to run the ball on the last tackle, May pushed off Campbell Graham and ducked under the attempted tackle of Latrell Mitchell. With Penrith awarded an eight-point try after May was struck in the face by the boot of Lachlan Ilias, the try enabled them to take a 20-6 lead.
NRL Press Conference: Panthers v Rabbitohs - Round 4, 2022
The Panthers meet the Bulldogs at CommBank Stadium next Sunday night, while the Rabbitohs host the Dragons on Saturday night at Accor Stadium.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary should have Sean O'Sullivan (foot) available but it remains to be seen how he will use him after Nathan Cleary made a successful return at halfback against Souths.
Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou is likely to need to find a replacement for prop Mark Nicholls after he limped from the field in just the second minute with a high ankle sprain.
Rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias was placed on report after striking Taylan May in the face with his boot as he tried to stop the Penrith winger scoring his second try.