Broncos monster Panthers amid Bunker controversy
FOR 10 minutes Matt Moylan gave an exhibition of what everyone likes about the Panthers. The rest of the game they were outclassed and at times monstered by a superior Broncos side.
Now holding a 2-7 win/loss record, Penrith's finals hopes are hanging by a thread after Brisbane ruthlessly exploited their biggest weaknesses in a 32-18 win.
Even that lopsided scoreline flattered the Panthers but for a furious period between the 65th and 75th minutes, the special talent of Moylan looked like making the impossible possible.
Penrith scored three tries in eight minutes, all inspired by their star fullback, to narrow the gap to 10 points with just enough time left in the game to score them.
But the Broncos' scrambling defence was good enough to stop a fourth quick try when Isaah Yeo spotted a gap in the defensive line and pinned his ears back and once again the result was beyond doubt.
While the Moylan-led burst papered over some of the cracks in Penrith's performance, the game was lost because Anthony Griffin's side was unable to fix some problems that have underpinned their poor start to the season.
Penrith could have and perhaps should have sprung to an early lead when the bunker controversially overruled the on-field call on a potential Tamou try.
Peter Wallace looked set to score in the fifth minute after some clever work from dummy half but as he dived over the line a desperate Josh McGuire knocked the ball out of his hands, only for Tamou to clean up the bouncing ball and waltz over.
On-field referee Gerard Sutton sent the decision to the bunker for review with a try call, asking the video review officials to confirm that McGuire had knocked the ball from Wallace's grasp.
The replays clearly showed that to be the case, with the ball propelled backwards out of the hooker's hands but a knock on was called against Penrith.
The Panthers were quite rightly unimpressed but by the 20th minute mark the side's lack of resilience - a quality they've failed to bring to the field all season - started to fog their performance once again.
After soaking up some promising Panthers attacking moments, the Broncos scored on just about their first trip into opposition territory, with James Roberts turning on the speed to burn a hole through the defence off a scrum play and when Penrith recovered he combined with Jordan Kahu who found Kodi Nikorima for a 12th minute try.
Six minutes later and it was once again Roberts feasting off a Panthers error, with Yeo failing to catch a short ball when he was through a hole and the Broncos flyer running 90 metres and beating five Panthers defenders for a sensational solo try.
The attack was blistering but it showed up a massive Panthers flaw - the side's inability to transition from attack to defence quickly enough to stop counter-attacks.
Not desperate enough. Not prepared to do the hard stuff.
It was a similar trait that was exposed by Kahu when he extended the Broncos' lead with a 31st minute try after catching what looked a fairly simple, unthreatening high attacking kick.
There were three Panthers players within a metre of Kahu when he came down the ball but not one of them laid a finger on him, leaving him with the covering Moylan to beat, which he did with a big right foot step, before strolling over for a try.
At this point Penrith's impressive start was a distant memory and a thumping beckoned when left centre Tautau Moga scored three minutes later.
Once again the Broncos went end-to-end, with Anthony Milford starting the try with some fleet footwork deep in his own half and Moga bursting through some more flimsy defence.
At half-time it was 22-0 and the Panthers were backed into the kind of corner that tends to bring out their best footy.
That came through Moylan later but the reality was that the game was already dead and buried.
Roberts has been in blistering form this season and this was another outstanding performance from a centre with the kind of blinding speed that can tear apart any side.
On just nine runs he made 171 metres, had a try assist and a try.
The Panthers did a lot to lose the game but if there was one player on the field who won it, a strong case could be made for Roberts.
On this form he would have been very difficult to keep out of the NSW side for the upcoming Origin series.
Particularly with Queensland's regular left centre Greg Inglis out, Roberts would be a very difficult match up for the Maroons and would has the potential to put a scare up them.
However, that form may all be in vain after the flyer was carried off the ground in the 75th minute after an awkward collision with teammate Matt Gillett.
In the post-game Broncos coach Wayne Bennett confirmed Roberts had injured his ankle with the extent of the damage unknown until he gets a scan.
Depending on whether he's sprained ligaments or fractured a bone, Roberts could be out from anywhere between one and six weeks.
If it's as bad as Roberts' facial expression made it look, his Origin hopes may already be over.