Thursday 14 December 2017 / 05:55 AM

NRL SUNDAY: PANTHERS, ROOSTERS & STORM GET UP

PANTHERS 30 d. KNIGHTS 20 @ McDonald Jones Stadium

Penrith proved second-half specialists once again, overturning another big lead to run out impressive winners.

THE MATCH: Newcastle rocketed out of the blocks, building a 12-0 lead inside 10 minutes after tries to Brock Lamb and Daniel Saifiti. A Lamb penalty goal extended the Knights’ halftime lead to 14 points.

The Panthers belatedly landed on the scoreboard through Matt Moylan in the 49th minute, sparking an avalanche of tries as Leilani Latu, James Tamou, Dallin Watene-Zeleniak and Moylan again crossed to take the match away from the Knights.

A late Peter Mata’utia four-pointer was pure consolation for the Knights, who were left sympathising with the Warriors after the Panthers piled on 30 unanswered second-half points for the second week in a row.

The Panthers’ big win was tempered by an injury to Peter Wallace, seemingly dashing the hooker’s chances of an Origin recall.

THE MAN: An unpopular choice as Test lock, Trent Merrin pushed his case for a NSW recall with a man of the match performance on the eve of Game 1 selection. Merrin made a game-high 210 metres from 21 carries, reeled off 37 tackles, and produced five offloads and an assist to send Matt Moylan over for the Panthers’ first try in his best performance of 2017 by a mile.

ORIGIN WATCH: Beside Merrin’s stellar audition, fringe Blues candidates Moylan, James Tamou and Tyrone Peachey all kept their names in the mix with strong displays. Though again featuring at fullback, Dane Gagai surely did enough to confirm he deserves a Queensland centre spot ahead of Justin O’Neill.

THE MOMENT: Matt Moylan sparked the Panthers’ remarkable comeback against the Warriors with his high involvement, and the skipper reprised his role in Newcastle by powering over for the try – through pure determination – that kick-started another revival.

ROOSTERS 24 d. BULLDOGS 18 @ ANZ Stadium 

After their multi-pronged attack dominated the first half, the Roosters were forced to withstand a stirring Bulldogs fight-back in the second stanza before holding on to claim the two points.

THE MATCH: The Roosters were caught on the back foot as Josh Morris opened the scoring for the Bulldogs in just the sixth minute, but the brilliance of the Tricolours’ backline produced tries for Daniel Tupou, Jake Friend and Latrell Mitchell, opening up a 20-6 halftime lead.

The blue-and-whites returned from the sheds rejuvenated, however, targeting the Roosters’ right-side defence to cross twice through Kerrod Holland and Matt Frawley in the space of six minutes.

The deficit cut to just two points, the Dogs were unable to find the go-ahead score, and the high-flying Roosters secured the win when Mitchell Pearce charged over with less five minutes remaining.

THE MAN: Michael Gordon continues to prove a top-value buy for the Roosters and the perfect foil behind a youthful backline. Against the Bulldogs he ran for a game-high 191 metres, made a line-break and came up with a superb try assist in a high-quality all-round game, while also slotting four from five with the boot.

ORIGIN WATCH: After another strong display, the entire Fox Sports team was happy to declare Mitchell Pearce a shoe-in to reclaim the NSW No.7 jumper. He will be joined by Boyd Cordner and Blake Ferguson, who were both solid, while Latrell Mitchell, Daniel Tupou and Luke Keary proved themselves worthy of consideration if injuries should hit the Blues’ ranks. Dylan Napa produced an authoritative display to all but confirm his Queensland debut, but Aidan Guerra will be lucky to keep his Maroons spot. Brett Morris clouded his rumoured recall with a mixed bag on the Bulldogs’ flank, but Josh Jackson was outstanding and David Klemmer did enough; the forward duo should be somewhere in Laurie Daley’s 17.

THE MOMENT: The Roosters’ match-sealer ended a 46-minute scoring drought, and it showcased the side’s ability to keep the ball alive. Daniel Tupou flung the ball in-field as he was headed over the sideline, before Blake Ferguson showed good vision to put Pearce into a half-gap for the try.

STORM d. RABBITOHS @ nib Stadium

Melbourne was forced to work until the 80th minute in a gruelling clash with Souths in the Western Australia wet.

THE MATCH: The early signs in Perth were ominous for the Rabbitohs as Will Chambers crossed for the Storm in just the fifth minute, but John Sutton levelled up for the underdogs 10 minutes later.

Josh Addo-Carr put his name on the scoresheet in the 25th minute to give the Storm a 10-6 lead, but Souths dug in and were unlucky not to go into the break in front after creating a few opportunities.

A long impasse ensured, but the Rabbitohs couldn’t find a way through the Storm’s defensive wall as the conditions made ball-handling difficult.

Suliasi Vunivalu’s barnstorming 74th-minute try finally extinguished the Rabbitohs’ brave resistance.

THE MAN: Cameron Smith tuned up for Origin by orchestrating a trademark Storm win. The skipper made 49 tackles and produced a try assist in yet another ultra-professional performance.

ORIGIN WATCH: Smith, Slater and Cronk emerged unscathed from the match, while Cameron Munster put his name forward for a spot in the Maroons’ 17 with another eye-catching display at five-eighth. Jordan McLean, Dale Finucane and Josh Addo-Carr kept their names in the NSW mix, but Adam Reynolds and Robbie Farah weren’t able to muster much of case for their retention in the Blues’ squad.

THE MOMENT: Suliasi Vunivalu was outstanding, running for a game-high 198 metres before scoring the match-sealing try with brute strength and excellent awareness.

[YouTube – Mr Hypersonic 25]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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