Adam Douehi and Brent Naden only had eyes for each other while Moses Mbye even had the nerve to shirt-front the club’s golden boy Nathan Cleary.
The 3699 fans almost wanted to jump the fence when the halfback was being roughed up after Mbye nearly took him out with a stray boot.
Jarome Luai stood next to Cleary after the game and said his halfback would have held his own against Mbye. Cleary could only smirk. He later told The Sun-Herald: “The only person I’d be confident against is ‘Romy’ [Luai].”
For all the effort and intent by the Tigers, they were never going to match the class of their rivals. This could easily be the year of the Panther.
Luai was excellent. So, too, winger Brian To’o, who scored a deserved try in his return from an ankle injury. Edwards survived the heavy treatment to run for 224m with four tackle busts.
“It was good to get scored on at the start. We had scored first for so long, it was good to be put under a bit of pressure and see how we responded. We stuck at it,” coach Ivan Cleary said.
‘You have to come to expect that [niggle] if teams are looking at us and trying to find ways to beat us.’
“I thought ‘Romy’ was really good tonight. He ran the ball more, and he’s such a dangerous player. I thought he was excellent.”
As for the niggle from the Tigers, Cleary said: “We expected that. It was there in the last game. You have to come to expect that if teams are looking at us and trying to find ways to beat us. That’s OK. [Nathan] gets his share of attention.”
Penrith will finish the weekend with their three-point buffer at the top of the ladder still intact.
A 12th consecutive win looks a formality when they take on the bumbling Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
While Penrith are all but certain to lose Isaah Yeo to concussion because of the five-day turnaround, Billy Kikau returns from suspension, along with Api Koroisau from a calf injury.
TV network executives must be tempted to ask Cleary to keep the star pair on ice in a bid to make the prime-time match-up a fair fight.
The Tigers started with plenty of purpose. Their season was on the line. They had the first points after a Benji Marshall kick early in the tackle count for an unmarked David Nofoaluma.
Nofoaluma racked up his 14th try for the year as Penrith conceded points inside the opening 20 minutes for the first time since round one.
“We had a reasonable start, but what [the result] showed myself and the club is where we need to get to … to be able to play 80 minutes of footy at the level we need to,” Tigers coach Michael Maguire said.
Maguire liked the fact Penrith had momentum, but said there was no way you could discount the big-game experience of Melbourne and the Roosters come October.
There is no fresh talent to blood over the next month, starting with Manly next week.
The Panthers, however, are certainly loving their football. It is wonderful to see every player make a point of congratulating their try scorers. The fans flew their flags as Josh Mansour scored right on the full-time siren and dared to dream big.
They have every chance of winning their remaining four games against the Broncos, Parramatta, North Queensland and Canterbury.
Beyond that who knows?
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Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.