Jamie Soward once again delivered a commanding performance at WIN Stadium, only this time it was to almost bury the finals hopes of the Dragons.
St George Illawarra’s finals hopes dropped as quickly as the temperature at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Sunday afternoon, with Jamie Soward leading the way for Penrith in their 16-4 victory over his former club.
Cast off last season, the former Dragons playmaker showed why he was vital to them winning a premiership in his time there with a man-of-the-match performance for the Panthers.
The result left Dragons coach Paul McGregor lamenting his side’s predicament as they sit four points outside the top eight with four rounds to go.
He said they need to win all four matches and rely on percentages to make the finals.
“We played a top four side four times this year and we’ve been beaten four times,” McGregor said.
While the odds are against them, they’re not insurmountable.
The Dragons play three teams below them including Newcastle and Gold Coast with danger games looming against traditional bogey side Canberra (away) and Brisbane.
McGregor praised the Panthers for holding out his developing side.
“We’re at a stage of development and they’re a real competent side, they kept things simple,” he said.
“One of their tries was from one pass, the other from two passes. They didn’t throw that much footy at us, they just worked us over and won field position.
“Once they did that, they strangled us a little bit.”
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary rated the victory as one of his side’s best of the year.
The Panthers controlled possession, frustrated the Dragons into poor fifth-tackle options and stood tall in defence when it mattered most.
Cleary paid tribute to Soward for steering the side around the park in the absence of chief organiser and captain Peter Wallace.
Hooker James Segeyaro was also a standout, scoring one try, setting up Adam Docker for another four-pointer, making a team-high 36 tackles and providing plenty of spark when his side needed it.
In a week in which the Panthers lost Elijah Taylor (knee), Brent Kite (pectoral) and Bryce Cartwright (ankle) to injury, Cleary praised the manner in which his side stuck to their structure and refused to make excuses.
“It was a really good performance,” he said.
“I was pretty proud of them today.
“I think we’re really starting to understand the style of football we want to play in attack and defence and you could really see that today, right from the first minute until the end.”
The Panthers hold a four-point advantage over a logjam of six teams on 26 points.
The Panthers lost winger David Simmons to a concussion just before halftime and Cleary said he did not know how serious the injury was.
The Dragons lost frontrower Dan Hunt, playing in his first game back since June, to a back injury.
In front of 13,107 fans, the Dragons opened the scoring in the seventh minute through Brett Morris but did not worry the scoreboard attendant for the rest of the game.
The Panthers took the lead through Segeyaro nine minutes later before sealing the game via second half tries to Docker and Jamal Idris.