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Preston impresses

By Daniel Pace 28/08/2004 10:49:48 PM Comments (0)

Penrith coach John Lang reckons five-eighth Preston Campbell is playing his best football in three years but the 2001 Dally M Medallist says he can go even better in the upcoming NRL semi-finals.

Campbell scored a crucial second half try to help the Panthers secure a 30-20 victory over a gallant Parramatta outfit - a victory which kept his side on track for a top four berth and ended the Eels' season.

"Preston's looking the sharpest since he had that big year (in 2001)," said Lang, who noted his players looked "nervous" after conceding 12 points during the opening four minutes at Parramatta Stadium.

"Early in the season he was carrying a groin injury which restricted him a bit but his confidence in attack has returned."

Penrith still need to defeat Brisbane next week at home to guarantee a top four spot and a home semi-final but Lang will be breathing a little easier after tonight's five tries to three win in front of 14,280 people.

If St George Illawarra beat Manly and the Panthers lose to the Broncos, the Dragons will claim the final spot in the top four because they have a bye next week and a far superior for and against.

"I thought they got stronger as the night went on," Lang said about the Eels.

"They tore us open early and we got ourselves back in a winning position. We couldn't kick clear and had to fight every inch of the way."

Penrith hooker Luke Priddis, who was placed on report for a swinging arm on halfback Michael Witt in the 18th minute, said the tough encounter was just what the hot and cold Panthers needed at this stage of the year.

"While we didn't play anywhere near our best tonight we showed a lot of character to come back the way we did," said the 2003 Clive Churchill Medallist.

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