1. Panthers winning streak ended
Prior to this match with the Dragons, the Panthers had embarked on a seven match winning streak, with the bulk of those victories coming at their home at the base of the mountains. Yet of these seven victories, the most convincing one occurred last week in the nation’s capital. Regardless of this and the withdrawal of skipper Matt Moylan, they were expected to down the Dragons at home. Instead, they turned in a rather average performance as their streak was ended with a 16-14 defeat.
2. Finals not secured for Penrith
This defeat ends Penrith’s top four hopes and it also means that a place in the finals is not secured yet. The Panthers are currently in sixth position, with both the Cowboys and Sea Eagles breathing down their necks while the Dragons are only two points behind them.
The ending of their streak means that they have still won seven of the last eight games but they still have work to do in order to extend their season. If the Panthers lose against Manly, then they could well miss out on the top eight.
3. Dragons top eight hopes remain
The Dragons threw the form guide out the window in order to win at Penrith. In doing so, they revived their own hopes of competing in the finals. The ninth-placed side will still rely on other results to go their way in the final round but they are back in contention after this impressive victory.
4. No Dugan, no worries
Key Dragons and NSW Origin centre Josh Dugan was pulled from the team due to disciplinary reasons. Coach Paul McGregor would later say that discipline was the key to their team and unfortunately, Dugan fell short in that regard. Kurt Mann replaced Dugan in the centres with Josh McCrone starting at half-back.
However, this was no hindrance at all to the Dragons, as they emerged triumphant against the Panthers. The 16-14 victory was achieved, courtesy of the performance back-rower Tariq Sims, and the composure of their captain Gareth Widdop.
Sims had his best game for the red and whites, as he gained 143 metres and scored a 50 metre match winning try. With this performance, Sims had emerged victorious in his battle with his cousin, Panthers front-rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard. England international Widdop led by example, especially in the back end of the match, where he controlled the game with his boot.
5. Key statistics crucial in Dragons victory
The Dragons had more of the ball, a better completion rate, made less errors and were on the right side of the penalty count. They finished the game with 53% possession and an 81% completion rate, with the Panthers ending with 74% completion.
The Dragons forced Penrith into making more tackles and missed over 20 less when they were defending. They kept their hosts down the other end of their field by forcing drop-outs. This was crucial to the Dragons preventing any late comebacks or heroics from the back end specialists.
6. Win or bust
The Dragons still find themselves out of the top eight, courtesy of victories by the Cowboys and Sea Eagles. With this unexpected result, neither team is guaranteed a spot in the finals. This renders the next round of fixtures to be amongst the biggest of the season so far. 30 points is normally enough for a team to seal a top eight spot but that might not be the case in 2017.
With their top four hopes now over, the Panthers must win in order to control their own finals destiny. Penrith will drop out of the eight if they lose and the Cowboys, Sea Eagles and Dragons all win.
St George must defeat the Bulldogs, who are only now playing for pride in their disappointing season, to have any chance of a top eight finish. If the Dragons emerge victorious, they can finish as high as sixth due to a strong points differential. However, if the Bulldogs end up causing an upset then the Dragons’ season will be over.
What were your highlights from the Dragons’ narrow win over the Panthers? Let us know in the comments below.
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