Magic Round can’t break the spell of pitiful Panthers

Few would be surprised if Cleary’s players collect the wooden spoon for the first time since 2007.

The Panthers were starved of early possession  but there was still no excuse for the shoddy defence.

They botched 24 tackles by half-time while the likes of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, one of the safest players under the high ball, looked starstruck by one Benji Marshall bomb.

The Tigers had a field day attacking Penrith’s right edge, where Tyrell Fuimaono started the game at the expense of  Waqa Blake.

Blake was an hour late to Thursday’s captain’s run and quickly dumped for the trip north.

Cleary, who walked out on the Tigers with two years to run on his deal, might be tempted to give a few more players the tap ahead of next Friday’s clash against the New Zealand Warriors.

Big Billy Kikau, their best attacking weapon,  made a miraculous return from what was feared to be a serious ankle injury just six days earlier.

The Fijian wrecking ball started the game but did not have his first-up until the half hour, then left the field with 13 minutes remaining troubled by the same ankle.

There were plenty of headlines about Panthers officials passing on the chance to sign Wayne Bennett when Anthony Griffin was sacked with the club pushing for a top-four spot on the ladder last year.

They now have Cleary for the next five years, and while the coach and father of the star halfback has tried to keep his youthful squad upbeat, the honeymoon is well and truly over.

Watene-Zelezniak did well to hold up the ball and put Dean Whare for their only try in the first half.

Had Wayde Egan not spilled the ball on the second tackle just inches out from the Tigers line before half-time, Penrith would have given themselves some sort of chance in the second half.

The Panthers have now slumped to a fifth straight loss and the finals are virtually over.

They were lucky to come away with a win over the Tigers in round four when Cleary slotted the match-winning field goal.

Cleary and Maloney are in serious danger of losing their Blues jerseys. The young halfback tried hard but had few friends.

Maloney, often criticised for his discipline, gave away a penalty which allowed the Tigers to march downfield and score their first try.

The Tigers deserved the big win and were flawless early. There is no better sight than seeing premiership pair Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah call the shots.


The same players who took orders from Cleary 12 months earlier spread the ball and at one stage scored three tries from as many sets.

Marshall is a joy to watch when he is on the park and in the zone. What a shame the King of Leichhardt cannot play on forever.

It was just the kind of victory they needed ahead of next Thursday’s dreaded road trip to Melbourne.

Panthers flyer Josh Mansour was denied a try when taken into touch by a desperate Moses Mbye, then bounced the ball over the line later in the second half.

Esan Marsters scored the only try in the second 40 minutes as the rain came down and Cleary’s expression, which was regularly beamed on the big screen inside Suncorp Stadium, gradually looked grumpier.

WESTS TIGERS 30 (E Marsters 2 L Brooks R Jennings M Mbye C Thompson tries E Marsters 3 goals) bt PENRITH 4 (D Whare try) at Suncorp Stadium. Referees: Chris Butler, Chris Sutton. Crowd: 35,122.

Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Most Viewed in Sport





You may also like...