Yeah It Was A Win, But Its Hard To Be Impressed

Only 11,000 people turned up to watch Penriths season opener against the Canberra Raiders.

After an off season full of promises and talk from the club, here we are on opening night, and the crowd figure was terrible.

Don’t blame the fans though, if there is one thing following Penrith teaches you its to expect nothing but disappointment. The low crowd figure was as much about a broken fan base and the faith they have in the club rather than how much people in Sydneys west have been dying for the season to start.

In the match itself, Penrith came out and put on 22 unanswered points. Great start, but you had to look deeper.

Canberra played terribly. I mean, I have never seen a worse first half to a season from any club, ever.

They didn’t have much possession, and when they did they turned it over. They were camped in their own 20 meter zone for most of the half, in fact the only positive you could get out of the first half of the Raiders season was the fact that Terry Campese has a great long kicking game.

For Penrith, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Any side would take advantage of an opponent in that position and to their credit, Penrith put the points on the board.

Here is what worried me though.

The Panthers attack is still so simplistic. There are no lines being run, there is nothing that really makes the defense have to think. Its basically one out football, and at times it will work for a little while, but even the worst team in the competition is going to adapt mid game to such simple tactics, and thats just what Canberra was able to do.

In the second half the Raiders condensed their defense and Penrith had nothing at all. Canberra started roaring back and if it wasn’t for an intercept while defending their own try line that ended up in four points for the Panthers, Penrith would have lost that game and been run over.

For the Raiders to play so terrible and still get so close, its not a good sign. Imagine what the top sides would do.

And don’t get me wrong, I think personnel wise this is one of the best Panthers lineups for a number of years. I just see problems from last season that have no been addressed.

For instance, Frank Pritchard looks great. He finally looks fit and early in the first half he was causing all sorts of problems for Canberra. He was destroying the Raiders and then was taken from the field. I may be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t come back until well into the second half, and by then all the steam had left him.

I also question why the incredible combination of Pritchard and Jennings has been broken up. I know opposition teams hated the idea of having to commit so many defenders to a rampaging Pritchard, only for an offload to Jennings all but guarantee four points to the Panthers.

The attack as I have said is so simplistic. It is like Matthew Elliott expect his forward pack to eventually break the back of the opposition and just run over the top of them.

When they do go to the back line, there are no decoy runners, it is simply a case of passing wide and having Jennings or Pritchard can break the line. Its simply not good enough.

Go and watch St George Illawarra or Melbourne when they go to their backline. They have have it set deep, they have a number of options on which runner to go with, they make the defense have to commit to players and they get results.

It is night and day when compared to Penriths simplistic attack.

The other thing I have to question is the merit of playing Shane Elford. He is getting on these days and more often then not, he is getting injured and really messing with the teams bench rotation.

At some point you have to think about bringing in a young bloke who isn’t made of biscuit!

Some people will think I’m being harsh, after all, they did win. However I’m like every other Panthers fan out there, I know that the promise of a 22-0 lead should not lead me to expect anything good. I know that a win over an opponent that was very poor does not make the club world beaters all of a sudden.

Penrith has problems, it is not a problem with talent, it is not even a problem with the effort being made by players.

Like all those Panthers fans that didn’t attend the game last night, I’ve been broken by a management and coaching staff that promises the world year after year and delivers nothing but contract extensions to themselves.

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