Penrith 16 Dragons 4
The Dragons finals hopes were left in free fall on Sunday following a 16-4 loss to the second-placed Panthers at WIN Stadium.
2010 premiership winning half Jamie Soward returned to his old home as Penrith skipper but it was hooker James Segeyaro who proved the chief tormentor.
The PNG livewire scored the Panthers first try midway through the first half and laid on their second for Adam Docker just after halftime before a 71st minute try to Jamal Idris put the game, and perhaps the Dragons finals chances, to bed.
‘‘This game was definitely a challenge for a whole lot of reasons. I think the Dragons have been playing really well and they’re always hard to beat down here,’’ Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.
‘‘I thought they had a lot going for them today so to come down and, not just win, but the manner we won and the way we played will give us a lot of confidence.
‘‘I definitely felt that today was probably our best 80-minute defensive display, just in terms of our composure. We knew what we had to do and whether we were fresh or tired we managed to come up with the stops.
‘‘They throw a lot at you, the Dragons. They’ve got some good players out there so in that sense it was very pleasing.’’
The Dragons started strongly in front of a 13,107-strong home crowd when Brett Morris crossed after beautiful round the corner ball from Adam Quinlan for a 4-0 lead after nine minutes.
The try took he and brother Josh’s combined tally past the four Mortimer brothers - Steve, Chris, Peter and Glen - to 196 tries to become the most prolific try-scoring siblings in premiership history.
It was the Dragons' last joy of the match as they struggled to breach the Panthers wall despite only trailing by eight points for the bulk of the second half.
The loss leaves the Dragons in 11th place on 22 points, four points adrift of a six-team logjam on 26, and needing to win all of their remaining games and hope results fall their way to reach the playoffs.
‘‘We’ve always thought we needed to win three of our last five. It knocks us out a bit on for and against to. If we won three of our next four it would come down to for and against so we’re going to need to win four out of four to get there,’’ McGregor said.
‘‘There was a bit of pressure on us today to win and it got hold of us a little bit. We’ve been playing with a bit of flair and challenging sides and today we did that with a bit more pressure on us and didn’t handle it as well.
‘‘I think four times in the second half we kicked on tackle four or less which we addressed through the week and we just didn’t fix it on game day.
‘‘We tried to score points when we were behind instead of building for them.
‘‘We’ve played a top four side four times this year and we’ve been beaten four times; that’s the truth of it,’’ he said.
‘‘Two of their tries were from one pass and the other was from two passes so they didn’t throw that much footy at us they just worked us over and won field position.
‘‘Once they did that they just strangled us a little bit and we didn’t play with enough composure.’’
The win was also soured by a back injury to prop Dan Hunt, who in his belated 150th first grade game was also placed on report for a 14th-minute high tackle on Panthers winger David Simmonds.