Monday 18 December 2017 / 04:36 AM

SUNDAY WRAP: PANTHERS AND EELS FLEX MUSCLE

PANTHERS 36 d. TIGERS 2 @ Campbelltown Stadium

Turnarounds don’t come much more emphatic than this. The Panthers recovered from their Round 1 shellacking at the hands of the Dragons by putting on a similar clinic against a disappointing Tigers outfit at Campbelltown.

THE MATCH: The opening half-hour featured just a penalty goal apiece in what shaped as a gripping afternoon of Sunday afternoon footy in the ’burbs. But when the Panthers finally broke through for the opening try in the 32nd minute to Dean Whare, the floodgates came flying off their hinges.

Explosive debutant Viliame Kikau and second-gamer Dylan Edwards added four-pointers to give the visitors an 18-2 lead at the break, and Leilani Latu’s try from a bomb in the 49th minute took the wind out of any potential Tigers comeback.

Whare’s comeback from an injury-ravaged couple of seasons continued impressively with his second try 15 minutes from fulltime, before Nathan Cleary finished off a dazzling team try that featured outstanding work from Edwards.

The Panthers’ massive defensive improvement – particularly during the first half – underpinned the victory, frustrating the Tigers’ free-flowing modus operandi before rediscovering their own trademark attacking flair at the other end.

THE MAN: Tyrone Peachey was untouchable, causing the Tigers headaches with every carry. The centre made four line-breaks, had a try assist and racked 187 metres from 14 carries. The versatile game-breaker is firming as a must for the NSW bench.

THE MOMENT: Kikau came off the bench on debut and immediately made an impact, smashing James Tedesco – who admittedly took a brave catch. The 21-year-old Fijian giant scored his maiden NRL try soon afterwards, and contributed 70 metres and 13 tackles in just 24 minutes on the field.

Panthers 36 (Dean Whare 2, Viliame Kikau, Dylan Edwards, Leilani Latu, Nathan Cleary tries; Cleary 5 goals) d. Tigers 2 (Mitchell Moses goal).

EELS 34 d. DRAGONS 16 @ WIN Stadium

The Parramatta Eels laid down their premiership credentials with a scintillating seven-tries-to-three win over St George Illawarra in Wollongong.

THE MATCH: The round-closing encounter could not have started any worse for the home side, muffing the kick-off before Parramatta five-eighth Clint Gutherson sliced through to score after just 37 seconds.

Michael Jennings put Semi Radradra over twice in the space of five minutes to open up a 14-0 lead midway through the first half, before Brad Takairangi pounced on a Corey Norman grubber in the 31st minute, but the Dragons finished the half on a positive note when Gareth Widdop scored an outstanding try.

Trailing by just 12 points thanks to Gutherson’s wayward goalkicking, the Dragons weren’t able to maintain any momentum after the break, with Eels fullback Bevan French blazing over for a wonderful solo try in the 46th minute.

Josh Dugan finished off arguably the try of the match – featuring brilliant work by Widdop, Tim Lafai and Jason Nightingale – shortly afterwards, but the Saints were unable to get closer than 14 points thereafter.

Radradra racked up a career-high four tries by crossing twice in the last 22 minutes, leaving him just one short of the Eels’ club record.

THE MAN: It’s impossible to go past four-try hero Radradra, who also ran for a game-high 168 metres from 18 carries. The big winger now has an incredible 64 tries in just 70 NRL games – what a shame he won’t be around long enough to shatter some of the premiership’s long-standing records.

THE MOMENT: Early pass-of-the-year contender from Michael Jennings, slipping the ball between his legs to send Radradra over for his second try.

Eels 34 (Semi Radradra 4, Clint Gutherson, Brad Takairangi, Bevan French tries; Gutherson 3 goals) d. Dragons 16 (Gareth Widdop, Josh Dugan, Paul Vaughan tries; Widdop 2 goals).

[YouTube – NRL 2017]

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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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