An important post origin game at the foot of the mountains was a great opportunity to make it 8/12 wins and cement a solid table position, but losing Keiran Foran and Jason King before kick off was not a great start to the afternoon.
We're getting used to no Keiran Foran, but how would we fare without our no 1 prop and go forward co-captain? One thing certain is that Kite and Rose would really need to step up, as would all of our bench. From the get go Penrith came out hungry making tackle after tackle in what quickly became an arm wrestle first half. Our defence held up too but we seemed to be struggling with any really go forward and as a result our attacked lacked cohesion with little room to move and too much sideways running.
Several times we looked like seizing scoring opportunities but passes were missing the mark and some worrying errors crept in. Unusually the scoreboard was still 0-0 after 30 minutes, and the possibility of a scoreless first half was looming until a somewhat out of the blue Penrith attack broke us open to send Coote away for a good try. Sensing we needed to hit back fast a repeat right side play saw Whare get the ball down in the corner with acrobatic expertise, having narrowly missed out on the same play a little earlier. Jamie's conversion just dipped across the face but we were right in this arm wrestle match.
Another burner to Watmough threw a scare our way when he was forced to leave the field, all of us hoping he'd be back as soon as possible. This was clearly going to be a tough day and as we ran to the sheds it was very clear Toovs would be ramming in the need to reduce errors and get better field position with the huge benefit of the wind at our backs. Footy is all about attitude with a tight 6-4 score we had the perfect opportunity to show we wanted the 2 points.
With Toov's instructions buzzing we set out to right the wrongs and patiently build a lead, but Penrith had really come to play and were putting on their best defensive performance in years. All the storm in a tea cup rubbish about Lewis was a meaningless farce, far from being "sacked" he was simply being given time away from the captaincy to deal with the 9 weeks of Origin, and was as keen as ever working hard with his eager pack.
Another 20 minute arm wrestle ensued but again our attack was stifled and blunted. Now is when we really badly needed King and Watmough to make big impact metres, but they were both missing, and and our starting forwards and bench were really struggling to make the impact needed. Was it simply all our ineffective go forward to set up DCE and our backs, or was their defence just too damn good? A large dose of both it seemed.
Possession was becoming critical and we were losing the battle, not only stuck in our own half but facing damaging repeat sets. Something had to give and it did just like that. A Brad Tighe try was quickly followed by another in goal lottery when Daniela grounded the ball. Suddenly it was 18-4 and the tide had turned. Watmough had returned to the game but it was all too late to make any impact, and with the game well and truly lost an unusually ineffective and tired Glenn Stewart dropped off Luke Lewis to gift him a 15 metre bolt to the line to rub the final salt into the wounds.
A 60 minute arm wrestle had turned into a damaging 22-4 loss in the space of just 11 minutes.
The stats don't read well. 25 missed tackles (14 from our forward pack), 12 errors, 304 less metres, 45% possession, and just 1 try for a game total of 4 points.
Penrith certainly tackled their guts out with an astonishing zero missed tackles from their entire pack and bench, but let's be honest our front row go forward was non existent and we were too often a pretty soft target, for which we ultimately paid a big price in the last 20 minutes. The media were crowing that we'd landed as a force after 4 wins in a row, but the truth is we were pretty lucky scape home wins against Canberra and Roosters and of course the Broncos win as good as it was came in the miracle last throw of the dice. In the last 6 weeks we've only averaged 15 points a game, that's something we really need to improve and hopefully much better go forward and Keiran's return will right the ship.
It's a long season and as disappointing as today was it's by no means a disaster, but we're going to need a big improvement to ensure we mean big business to secure a vital top 4 finish.
Brett Stewart: Safe as houses, and made a couple of try saving hero tackles, but sadly no opportunities in attack and as the game wore on looked a little origin tired
Jorge Taufua: Just goes to show how freakish Hoppa senior was with those 20 hit up games, but 13 wasn't bad and he put on a couple of good hits too
Steve Matai: Another quiet game by his high standards with just 33 metres, and worse still a worrying tackle on report (surely it was a rebound off the ball right?)
Jamie Lyon: Not a great day by his standards with just 39 metres
Whare: One of the few to hold his head high and filling huge Hoppa junior Mr Fixit shoes
Liam Foran: Never got anything going but didn't have a lot to work on, we sure need Keiran back badly
Daly Cherry-Evans: No go forward makes a halfbacks job pretty impossible
Glenn Stewart: 4 missed tackles including a try conceder and tired in attack, words you so rarely write about Glenn
Anthony Watmough: Missed a big chunk of the match limiting him to just 23 metres, and we sure missed him very badly
Daniel Harrison: Like the rest of the pack not able to make any impact
George Rose: We all love Gorgeous, but in the fair dinkum stakes he's just not a 1st grade starting prop, and try as he might posed little danger all day
Matt Ballin: Another massive defensive effort with 47 tackles, but as documented by others comes a time when more is needed from dummy half. Is 80 minutes week after week just too much to ask?
Brent Kite: Looked tired, played tired, just 70 metres is nowhere near enough from the lead prop of the day
Jamie Buhrer: 120 metres and 29 tackles, tried his hardest but we needed stats like this from our front row
Joe Guluvao: Tried hard too and made a great line break but with no King just 9 runs seems way too few
Darcy Lussick: 103 metres was amongst our best today but he's still hardly setting the world on fire, are the pink boots a worrying clue to the dollar spinning eyeballs?
Vic Mauro: 45 metres didn't trouble the Panthers pack
Getting Kingy and Keiran back next week would be a very good thing. Let's hope we do cos we will sure need them.
No go forward, very low metres, and 25 missed tackles point to a very poor day at the office.
Losses to Parramatta, Gold Coast and Penrith all have a pretty ugly feel about them. They just wanted it more and that's not only ugly but hurts.
A very disappointing day. DCE said we were really flat. Why? The stats were certainly very poor. We also seem to be building a worrying trend of playing poorly against the lower teams but then putting on great performances against the top teams likes the Dogs and Broncos. With just 5 days before a critical Brookie Fri night game against Saints here's praying we will be back to the physically and mentally damaging team we know we can be. Having our front row tearing into the opposition would be a good place to start.