Panthers avoid repeat of Wests Tigers Bathurst upset

Melissa Woods |

Brian To’o of the Panthers is tackled during his side’s 22-6 victory over Wests Tigers in Bathurst.
Brian To’o of the Panthers is tackled during his side’s 22-6 victory over Wests Tigers in Bathurst.

Wests Tigers coach Benji Marshall will seek a ‘please explain’ from the NRL, saying his team isn’t getting the “rub of the green” after their gutsy 22-6 loss to Penrith.

Last season, the lowly Tigers sprang a huge upset at Bathurst’s Carrington Park, ending a 12-game losing streak with a 12-8 victory over the Panthers.

They threatened a repeat until Penrith’s third try in the 63rd minute sent the title-holders clear before Warriors-bound prop James Fisher-Harris iced the win with a rampaging individual effort.

James Fisher-Harris celebrates his late try for Penrith.
A late try from James Fisher-Harris (left) gave the scoreline a flattering look for the Panthers. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

The three-time champions were rattled early, and the Tigers took a 6-0 lead when they found some room on the left and John Bateman fired a cut-out pass to Junior Tupou, with the winger swan-diving across the line.

They were unlucky not to be in again soon after when Penrith halfback Brad Schneider ankle-tapped Justin Olam, who was running in support of Tupou.

He only received a penalty, with Marshall questioning why the challenge wasn’t deemed to be a professional foul and a sin bin.

“I’ve been pretty quiet about the refereeing but I just feel that we’re not getting the rub of the green,” Marshall said.

“Justin Olam is supporting to try and score a try and he gets tripped up. How that’s not a professional foul and a sin bin – I will ask for clarification. That hurt us.

“It just feels like we’re not getting the rub of the green, and it’s been a few weeks in a row now, so we will get some answers on that.”

Still proud of his side’s effort, Marshall didn’t blame the incident for the loss but said to play against 12 for 10 minutes “would have helped”.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said he didn’t see the incident clearly but felt Schneider fell over. 

Panthers winger Sunia Turuva grabbed a first-half double to push his season tally to eight and move clear on the competition try-scoring tally.

He crossed in the 15th and 26th minutes, with the Panthers showing their class as they moved the ball quickly across the back-line to lead 10-6 at the break.

Wests Tigers Junior Tupou.
Tigers try-scorer Junior Tupou limped off with an apparent broken foot before halftime. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

The second half continued to be an arm-wrestle before a try from debutant centre Paul Alamoti gave Penrith a little breathing space.

Alamoti was a late replacement for Taylan May, who skipped the match for personal reasons.

The conversion by Dylan Edwards pushed the lead out to 10 points, before Fisher-Harris barged over in the 71st minute to seal the result.

“It was a tough game, a real grind,” Cleary said. 

“We didn’t start real well. We were behind the eight-ball early and under pressure in the start of the second half, too, but in both we worked our way through which was really pleasing. 

“It wasn’t our sharpest effort but in terms of just hard work and grinding away it might have been the best in that sense.”

Edwards left the field in the final minutes with a leg issue with Cleary confident it wasn’t serious, while Tupou – who limped off just before halftime – may have a broken foot.