Rugby League


Penrith Panthers five-eighth Jamie Soward breaks duck against Canberra Raiders

It took Jamie Soward seven attempts to finally win in Canberra, but the tenacious Penrith five-eighth is not about personal milestones.

When he took a chip kick from Anthony Milford and ran over the sideline as the full-time hooter sounded, the broad grin on his face came from the Panthers beginning to show some sort of consistency.

Sunday's 26-20 win against a Raiders side sitting near the bottom of the NRL table wasn't pretty. It certainly won't cause the bookmakers to wind in their premiership odds.

But these are the competition points which could be crucial once the race to the finals begins in earnest later in the year.

"I don't really care about the personal stuff, I'm just enjoying being among the boys, they've accepted me,'' Soward said.

"The crowd's been giving it to me all day, I'm more excited for the team, back-to-back for the first time this year.''


Soward's move to the Panthers this season raised plenty of eyebrows.

The former NSW five-eighth fell out of favour with the St George Illawarra Dragons, but that didn't deter Panthers boss Phil Gould from showing faith in the 29-year-old.

It's starting to pay off.

His combination with halfback Peter Wallace is getting better each week and the pair showed plenty of composure in slowing down the play and kicking to the corners when the Panthers were nursing a lead late in the contest.

Yet it wasn't a game without controversy.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart launched a scathing attack on the referees for several contentious calls and Panthers hooker James Segeyaro was put on report for a forearm to the head of David Shillington.

"They're playing for their season, they've been touched up in the last two weeks and we always knew a Ricky Stuart-prepared side is going to come out firing,'' Soward said.

"For myself, the first sort of half was a bit of a nightmare and they were pumped up.

''I think the refs handled it really well, no stupid stuff and everyone will be able to play next week.''

Without much fuss, the Panthers have risen to third on the ladder with six wins from 10 games.

The Panthers are unlikely to be affected by the draining representative period and have put themselves in a good position for finals football heading into the second half of the season.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was pleased his side was able to record back-to-back wins for the first time this year after beating the Knights in Newcastle last week.

"There's not much point looking at the ladder at the moment, but to win in Newcastle and Canberra regardless of where they sit on the table in consecutive weeks, I think it's a fair achievement,'' Cleary said.

"It definitely gives us a bit of confidence to win on the road.

"From minute one to minute 80 it was a very tight contest.''