Penrith Panthers scratch out win over Dragons
Penrith kept hold of top spot on the NRL ladder with an 18-14 win over St George Illawarra on Saturday night.
The surprise competition leaders kept their mid-season momentum humming with a deserved victory built on the back of an impressive defensive effort, with Kiwi international Dean Whare scoring two tries, for their fifth win in a row.
After opening the scoring at home before 13,768 fans, with Whare on the end of a cleverly worked set move, the Panthers spent much of the first 20 minutes camped in their own half.
But the Dragons couldn't come up with a result and Whare scored his second try in the 23rd minute when Wes Naiqama tapped down a Peter Wallace cross-kick for the Kiwi centre to pounce.
The Dragons' effort was there, they lacked execution at crucial times but finally scored in the 35th minute when Charly Runciman burst over for a 12-4 halftime lead to Penrith.
The visitors were right back in it when Jason Nightingale crossed in the 43rd minute off a great inside ball from Adam Quinlan.
Benji Marshall was guilty of overplaying his hand at times and, with the Dragons pressing the Panthers' line minutes later, the playmaker tossed a pass into touch on the first tackle.
The visitors struggled to recover from that setback.
Josh Mansour scored in the 54th minute after Jamie Soward broke the line courtesy of an Isaah Yeo offload.
Soward again converted against his former club for an 18-10 scoreline.
Nightingale slid over out wide with two minutes on the clock and the Dragons had one last set of six to force the win but Penrith's defence was again up to the task.
Penrith Panthers 18 (D Whare 2 J Mansour tries J Soward 3 goals) St George Illawarra Dragons 14 (J Nightingale 2 C Runciman tries G Widdop goal) at Sportingbet Stadium. Referee: Ashley Klein, Adam Gee. Crowd: 13,768