The Panthers NSW Cup side continues to impress in the lead up to finals, with a convincing 68-12 win over North Sydney today at Sportingbet Stadium.

It was a bit of a scrappy start to the game, with minor premiers Penrith lacking any real sense of urgency and making plenty of errors. North Sydney came out firing and looked to have it over us early on, until we kicked into gear midwy through the first half and started to pile on the points.

We opened the scoring in the first two minutes of the match after Luke Capewell put a beautifully timed bomb over to the right corner, Eddie Aiono leapt into the air and beat a Bears defender to the ball before flicking it to Wes Naiqama who had plenty of time and space to run it over the line. Naiqama’s kick was slightly off, so Penrith took a 4-0 lead.

Norths hit back five minutes later with a great dummy half play that saw hooker Matt Hyland dive towards the line and stretch his arm out to get the ball down underneath the posts. With the conversion, the Bears took the lead 6-4.

They backed that up in the 14th minute when Chris Greusmuhl collected a nice offload a few metres out from the line and barged his way through our defence to get the ball down. The kick added the extra points, extending the Bears’ lead to 12-4.

Panthers seemed to be lacking any sense of urgency in this game and were just going through the motions until they finally found the opportunity they’d be looking for in the 22nd minute, with Tom Humble putting Ryan Simpkins into some space. He took off down the field before passing left to Capewell who carried the ball over the line. Humble sent the ball straight through the uprights, taking the score to 12-10.

Capewell bagged a double with 11 minutes remaining in the half after finding a hole in the Bear’s defence off the back of some perfectly timed passing from Daniel Foster and Vaipuna Tia Kilifi, running the ball straight through the North Sydney back line to get the ball down behind the posts. The conversion put Penrith back out in front 16-12.

Our third unanswered try came courtesy of some very poor defence from Norths after they allowed the Panthers to run the ball right across the field, and then let Tom Eisenhuth jog straight through their back line and over to score. Humble made the very tricky sideline kick, pushing Penrith even further out in front 22-12, with five minutes until the half time break.

Penrith had now kicked into gear and scored again less than two minutes later when Eto Nabuli broke through a tackle and took off down the sideline before getting the ball away to Kevin Naiqama, who then offloaded to fullback Kieran Moss who ran it over the line. Humble’s conversion extended Penrith’s lead to 28-12.

HALF TIME: 28-12 Panthers

The Panthers opened the scoring eight minutes into this half after a Kevin Kingston pass sent Lani Latu through a hole in the Bears defence, and he dived over to score in his comeback game after several months on the sideline with injury. With the conversion, the score moved to 34-12.

Capewell crossed for his hat trick a few minutes later after Nathan Smith put Kev Naiqama into some space and he made a break for it, taking off down the field. The ball eventually found the hands of Capey, who broke through a tackle and streaked home over the line. Humble sent the ball between the posts, notching up Penrith’s 40.

In our next set, Nabuli finally got across the line after several attempts throughout the game, collecting the ball on the sideline and sprinting towards the corner post, diving over just as a Bears defender came in to tackle him. The kick was waived away, so the Panthers took a commanding 44-12 lead, with 25 minutes remaining.

Kev Naiqama was our next try scorer and he did it all himself in the 65th minute after stripping the ball from a North Sydney defender from about 25m out, turning on his heel and sprinting over the line. Humble kicked from in front to bring up our 50.

Humble then put Nathan Smith over less than two minutes after that with a beautiful grubber kick that bounced perfectly into Smith’s waiting arms, and he dived over for the points. With the conversion, Penrith’s lead blew out to 56-12.

Nabuli scored his second try with 10 minutes on the clock after Ben Murdoch-Masila made a line break on halfway and stormed off down the field, flicking the ball to the flying Fijian, who carried it the final 20m. Humble’s sideline conversion took the score 62-12.

In the final minute of the game, a Nabuli break and offload put Murdoch-Masila over the line. Nabuli decided to take the kick, much to the crowd’s delight, and after some careful preparation he sent the ball through the posts for the extra two, handing Penrith their biggest win of the year!

FULL TIME: 68-12 Panthers