Panthers roll on towards minor premiership with defeat of Roosters

The Panthers continued their charge towards back-to-back premierships as they consigned Sydney Roosters to their longest losing streak in six years with a gritty 26-18 triumph at BlueBet Stadium.

Despite a gutsy performance without star playmaker Luke Keary and forward leader Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, the Roosters have now crashed to four consecutive losses for the first time since 2016 and are in 10th place.

Given a ladder position that belies the quality of the Roosters line-up and the way they have been playing without key players, it could be argued that Trent Robinson's men are the best bottom eight team in recent memory.

Yet it could equally be said that the Panthers are the most dominant team backing up from a grand final triumph for decades as they have rarely missed a beat this season and are now on track to secure the minor premiership.

 With the Storm losing 36-30 to Manly on Friday night, Penrith are now six points clear of second place with eight matches to play in the regular season and have almost all of their squad fit as they head towards the finals.

The Panthers limited the Roosters to just 28 per cent of field position but Robinson was frustrated by an 8-3 penalty count and some calls against his team, including a penalty against hooker Sam Verrills that led to a Viliame Kikau try on halftime.

Match snapshot

  • Roosters coach Trent Robinson reshuffled his side before kick-off, with Joey Manu moving to five-eighth, Drew Hutchison to hooker, Sitili Tupouniua to the centres, Nat Butcher to the second-row and Sam Verrills to the bench.
  • However, it made little difference as Nathan Cleary kicked an early penalty goal and Brian To'o scored in the 12th minute from a scrum win, with Dylan Edwards and Stephen Crichton combining to create an overlap for the star winger.
  • Angus Crichton was sent to the sin-bin in the 18th minute for a professional foul after holding back his Panthers namesake Stephen Crichton as he backed up a break but the Roosters held on while down to 12-men.
  • Significantly, the return of the NSW Origin forward coincided with a Roosters try as captain James Tedesco broke through the defence on the 40 metre line and sent halfback Sam Walker racing away to score.
  • A soft try on the stroke of halftime wouldn't have pleased Robinson after Panthers hooker Api Koroisau put fellow Fijian Viliame Kikau over from close range to give the premiers a 14-6 lead at the interval.
  • The Roosters came out firing for the second half and it was just six minutes before Tongan prop Siosiua Taukeiaho charged his way over for a try to reduce the deficit to 14-12.
  • Verrills put the Roosters ahead for the first time in the match when he raced out of dummy half to score in the 52nd minute and momentum was turning as fatigue began to set in for the 13 Panthers backing up from rep round.
  • However, the brilliance of Nathan Cleary produced a 66th minute try for Samoa centre Izack Tago who ran a great angle to take advantage of Tupouniua racing out of the defensive line.
  • The Panthers ramped up the pressure and despite star five-eighth Jarome Luai being denied a try in the 70th minute it was only a matter of time as the Roosters were forced to defend repeat sets on their own line.
  • Koroisau sealed the win when he dived between Victory Radley and James Tedesco after a quick play-the-ball by Penrith and New Zealand prop James Fisher-Harris to score in the 73rd minute.

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Brad Walter - NRL Senior Reporter