Penrith Panthers shut out toothless Dragons
After starting the season as favourites for the wooden spoon, Penrith have climbed into the NRL top eight following a 19-0 win over St George Illawarra on Saturday at Kogarah Oval.
The rejuvenated Panthers secured a third successive victory thanks to a dominant first-half performance that yielded three tries.
Four-pointers from Travis Robinson, outstanding young fullback Matt Moylan and Dean Whare helped Ivan Cleary's side open up an 18-0 lead at halftime to make it the first time in the NRL era the Panthers have kept a team scoreless in the opening period for three straight games.
The Dragons were dire in the first period, turning the ball over with alarming regularity as the confident Panthers, who smashed the Warriors 62-6 last week, seized control of the game.
A half-time spray from coach Steve Price resulted in the hosts playing with some extra intensity after the break and Josh Dugan almost finished off a sumptuous move that split the Panthers defence apart only to lose control of the ball just in front of the posts.
The Dragons then looked to have finally breached the Panthers' line on the hour mark when Daniel Vidot hauled in a Nathan Fien kick to touch down.
However, the vast majority of the 10,922 crowd were left fuming after Vidot was adjudged to have knocked on by the video referee despite the try being awarded by on-field official Chris James.
That setback appeared to knock the stuffing out of the hosts as the Panthers defence held firm and started to dominate despite Luke Walsh narrowly missing three field-goal attempts.
Dugan looked the most likely to create a scoring opportunity for the Dragons with another encouraging performance from the ex-Canberra star and he made a great break to set up a try for Jason Nightingale.
But once again it was thwarted by the video box with Jamie Soward adjudged to have knocked on in the build-up.
Walsh, who kicked three goals, finally got his field goal in the dying seconds to complete a good night at the office for the visitors.
Penrith Panthers 19 (M Moylan T Robinson D Whare tries L Walsh 3 goals L Walsh field goal) St George Illawarra Dragons 0 at WIN Jubilee Oval. Referee: Chris James, Adam Devcich. Crowd: 10,922