AAP Rugby

Luai now finding his best at Penrith

By AAP Newswire

It's easy to forget that Jarome Luai has only played 25 NRL games.

And that just a month ago, there were questions over whether he should hold his spot in Penrith's halves, with Matt Burton pushing for selection.

Once regarded as the premier teenage half in Penrith ahead of Nathan Cleary in his younger days, Luai is now starting to look comfortable in the NRL.

One of the several under-rated men in Penrith's rise up the NRL ladder, Luai has answered any queries over his spot in style in recent weeks.

His performance in Penrith's win against the Wests Tigers on Saturday night was arguably his best since his big second game against the Warriors in his rookie year in 2018.

He also bust through 10 tackles in Saturday night's win, taking on more responsibility as he twice grubbered in quick succession to force line dropouts.

He also set up two tries for Stephen Crichton, throwing the last pass for one and grubbering for another as their combination continues to grow.

"Romi is only into his 20th game or something, he hasn't played many at five-eighth," coach Ivan Cleary said.

"Obviously Stephen is new at it too. The more games they play, they have had some tough games this year and tonight was no different.

"They've had some really good experiences the young guys. There is only one way to find out and that is to be there.

"Another good step in that direction tonight."

Crucially, Luai missed just the one tackle as the Tigers ran plenty of traffic at him with his defence having previously been questioned.

However, he was pinged for hands on the ball in the ruck, giving away three set restarts in the first half.

Meanwhile, it wasn't all good news for Penrith in the win.

Winger Brian To'o finished the night on crutches, with an ankle injury that threatens to sideline him.

"It didn't look great ... We'll have to see what the scans show," Cleary said.

If To'o does miss games, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak would be the most likely option to fill his void on the wing with Dean Whare also out with a toe complaint.