Panthers 13 Dragons 12 (golden point)
Black magic ... jubilant Penrith players swamp Lachlan Coote after the fullback's field goal gave the Panthers a golden-point victory over the Dragons last night. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Even before Lachlan Coote slotted a field goal in golden-point extra-time, Ivan Cleary's decision to drop Michael Jennings to the NSW Cup had been justified.
Without their Origin centre, Penrith broke a five-game losing streak and moved four points clear of the bottom-of-the-table Eels.
St George Illawarra did well to take the game to extra time with two tries in the final 15 minutes, but if they are serious about their title chances this year, the final minutes shouldn't overshadow the disappointment of the first 60.
The Dragons built their success under Wayne Bennett on the back of their defence, but they vowed to place a lot more emphasis on their attack under the Price regime. That hasn't quite come to pass.
Over the last month of football, besides the high-scoring affair against the Roosters on ANZAC Day, they've struggled to score points.
They put six on the Cowboys last round, 12 against the Knights in round seven and were held scoreless by the Sharks a week earlier. At the corresponding stage of last year's season, the Dragons had scored 212 points. This year, they've only managed 150 - the third worst of any team in the NRL.
The Dragons had eight players involved in game one of the Origin series last year. Price will be thankful he's only lost two this time around. He's going to need all hands on deck over the next six weeks if he's going to ensure this team are a genuine threat to the title.
The Dragons, particularly earlier in the season, showed enough to suggest they could still be a force come September, but then they dish out performances like last night's that leave you wondering whether they still have the drive and talent to challenge for the top eight, let alone the premiership.
Jamie Soward may be out of favour with the Blues, but his importance to St George Illawarra couldn't have been more obvious last night. Without their five-eighth, who was a late omission with a corked thigh, the Dragons looked lifeless and disorganised in attack.
They had enough opportunities, in particularly in the first half, to score three tries or four tries, but they just didn't look like penetrating the solid Panthers defence, which was a complete contrast to the shambles it's been for most of this year.
Nathan Fien, who played at five-eighth in the absence of Soward, missed tackles, dropped balls and threw some poor passes on a night he'd like to forget.
The Panthers displayed an attitude only seen once so far in 2012, when they thumped Parramatta 39-6 back in round four, ending their eight-game losing streak at Centrebet Stadium
Penrith have looked disinterested at times in the opening 10 rounds, but their attitude couldn't be questioned last night. If ever coach Ivan Cleary needed to remind his team of the type of intensity they need to play with each week, a replay of last night's game would have the desired affect.
They forced five goal-line drop-outs, four in the first half, a remarkable feat without their No.1 general play kicker, Luke Walsh, out injured. But their defence, especially on their own line, was first class.
They pressured the Dragons and forced them to make some poor decisions in attack. Cleary won't be happy with the fact his team allowed the Dragons back into game.
PENRITH 13 (K Kingston R Simpkins tries B Austin 2 goals L Coote field goal) bt ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 12 (J Marketo M Rein tries K Stanley 2 goals) in golden-point extra time at Centrebet Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Tony De Las Heras. Crowd: 10,367