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The Sydney Morning Herald

A HUNGER THAT WAS FED

Author: WARREN RYAN
Date: 22/09/1991
Words: 771
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 4
In hindsight, Penrith's sheer physical onslaught meant the grand final was only ever going to finish one way.

Canberra provided one of the most courageous goal-line stands imaginable but the cumulative toll of the inexorable assault meant cracks were going to appear in the dam wall as the sledgehammers kept pounding.

Continuing the imagery, the symbolic banging on the door meant it had to open for Penrith after 25 years.

Weight of possession told in an absorbing grand final in which Penrith were too strong and hungry.

The physical level of the opening was ferocious.

For all Canberra's bravery, no team can score points when it defends, defends and can't clear its line.

More specifically, the match will be remembered for the fairytale finish it provided to Royce Simmons's career.

Perhaps he should change the name of his restaurant to the First and Last, in honour of the tries he scored.

No doubt when his grandchildren hear the tales, those tries will have been scored from immeasurably longer distances and feature far more footwork and speed.

The first was certainly a determined, skilful effort and the last a career bonus.

Simmons's effort is doubly meritorious when it is considered that for a long time this season it seemed he wasn't going to play first grade, let alone the grand final.

Canberra were magnificent in defence and defeat, and none more so than captain Mal Meninga, who was as magnanimous in defeat as in victory.

Penrith's Phil Gould has proved himself a gun coach with an outstanding strike-rate of two wins and three grand finals in four first-grade seasons.

That's a great achievement.

While it can be said weight of possession earned Penrith victory it was possession and territory earned.

It was the result of pressure.

The Canberra kicking game fell away in the second half and they weren't able to gain the distances to send Penrith far enough back.

The consequences of injuries to Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley were obvious

Penrith were continually able to kick and run the ball to the line and pin them down.

Canberra weren't able to play their way out of trouble and couldn't gain the relieving metres in the forwards.

The short kick which led to Penrith's last try was an expression of that frustration as they sought to gain space and possession.

Even when Canberra led at half-time it was from tries against the trend.

Penrith's lost opportunities in the first half seemed the result of rustiness from one game in a month.

Individuals? Greg Alexander keeps reminding us how dangerous he is in broken play and his field goal answered any questions about his ability under pressure.

But if there is any remaining criticism it is about his sporadic involvement. One looks at the work a Peter Sterling does, and that sort of organisation was needed in the first half.

Brad Clyde was fine, certainly, but Canberra second-rowers Gary Coyne and David Barnhill especially deserve the highest praise in defeat.

Similarly for Stuart and Daley, who obviously were not fit.

Colin Van Der Voort was strong and powerful for Penrith, Paul Clarke a solid tradesman again, and John Cartwright showed what a great player he is by the impact he had.

Every time he runs the ball it's danger.

Mark Geyer still needs more discipline in his game.

What would the game be if every player gesticulated and carried on that way after every tackle?

Referee Bill Harrigan's weariness was manifested by Geyer's sin-binning.

It's a pity, for Geyer is an enormous footballer.

Brad Fittler was very involved, although Canberra seemed able to read his footwork pretty well.

It was a good and gripping grand final, deservedly Penrith's day, but most of all it will be remembered as Royce Simmons's day.

 
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