Panthers dominate Souths in Grand Final rematch to make it 19 on the spin at home

featured, League, NRL, Penrith Panthers, South Sydney Rabbitohs

Penrith have continued their perfect start to their Premiership defence with a convincing 26-12 victory over South Sydney in the Grand Final rematch at BlueBet Stadium.

The final score might have flattered Penrith, but they were plenty of value for their 19th consecutive home win, with every Souths punch being countered almost immediately by devastating Panthers attack.

They didn’t have everything their own way – indeed, but for a few late tackles and bunker decisions, the teams might have been level in the second half – but in the end, the champions led from tape to tape.

Penrith welcomed back Nathan Cleary and thus reunited the star spine that led them to glory last time around. Two of the early tries showed that none of the cohesion that has defined Ivan Cleary’s team in recent years has been lost.

The halfback was perhaps the quietest of the lot, but that might say more about the stellar performances from Isaah Yeo and Dylan Edwards, who continued their superb starts to 2022, and Jarome Luai, who was at his impudent best.

South Sydney were second best throughout, but will take plenty out of this. Lachlan Ilias is looking less and less like a rookie in just his fifth game and Cam Murray remains talismanic in the middle for the Bunnies. Cody Walker, who has started this year somewhat slowly, seemed close to his best.

The Panthers took no time at all to get themselves going, scoring off just their second set of the game.

It was the sort of move that looks incredibly simple because it is so hard to execute, with bodies in motion coming into the line at exactly the current point in the manoeuvre.

Isaah Yeo, easily Penrith’s best player so far in 2022, was the architect. Although the ball went through another three pairs of hands en route to Izack Tago’s, they were all capitalising on the shape built from Yeo and his ability to convince defenders time and again that he is going for the line, only for the ball to disappear out of the back.

If you thought the Panthers’ left edge was good, then wait until you see the right. Again, it was Isaah Yeo who made the difference: the lock’s jink to the line created the angle for Cleary, who found Edwards and then Crichton.

For the second time, there was enough of an overlap that the centre went over with a winger watching on.

Souths have an edge of their own, mind, and anything Isaah Yeo can do, so can Cameron Murray. He took the ball at first receiver and fed Lachlan Ilias, who produced a long pass that took Tago out of the game and allowed Campbell Graham to cross.

Those who watched his similar effort to create Cody Walker’s try against the Roosters last week will recognise what Ilias can bring in terms of weight of pass.

The Panthers didn’t rest for a moment. Luai, instrumental again, was the catalyst, creating the overlap that got Taylan May over at the corner.

It was only Cleary’s kicking – three horrendous misses from three – that kept the score close. But for an obstruction call, they would have been level as Lachlan Ilias crossed, only to be denied by the bunker.

Ilias was at the heart of everything good for the Bunnies. After Taane Milne had been stopped while diving at the corner, the young half put Tom Burgess through a hole and only last-ditch tackling from Dylan Edwards kept him out. It could so easily have been 12 all at the break.

The Panthers might have been lucky to get to the sheds in front, but once on the other side of halftime, they never looked back.

Taylan May was again the beneficiary of superb hands – this time from Viliame Kikau – and copped a boot in the face as he scored.

Cleary, who finally found his range for the conversion, dobbed over another from in front to complete the eight-point try.

It wasn’t quite done yet. Souths have resilience in spades and showed plenty of it. Again Ilias was the spark, straightening into the line and finding Cody Walker, who went out to Johnston and kept his run to get the return pass and score.

It took until ten to play to ice the game. Nursing what looked like a knee injury, Jarome Luai appeared to be trapped with nothing doing on the last tackle, but found a no-look nutmeg kick through Latrell Mitchell and Liam Martin dove to touch down.

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