The Penrith Panthers NYC side has kept its hopes of a minor premiership alive with a 38-8 victory over Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium on Monday.
Charging their way to a 32-0 halftime lead, the Panthers eased off after the break and cruised to a victory which keeps pressure on North Queensland Cowboys at the top of the table.
Soni Luke, Paea Pua and Thomson Tuigimala were late withdrawals for Cameron Ciraldo’s side, seeing Dylan Edwards shift to hooker, Fuimanu Enese named on the wing and Kaide Ellis and Dylan Fuad join the bench.
In the 7th minute James Fisher-Harris drew four defenders but still managed to get the arm free for an offload to Moses Leota. The prop bustled his way over for the try, which Nathan Cleary subsequently converted for a 6-0 lead.
Not to be outdone by his front-row partner, prop Oliver Clark twisted out of a tackle to cross for a try of his own four minutes later. Cleary was on target again and the Panthers were 12-0 in front.
In the 14th minute Penrith extended their lead further courtesy of an accurate Jarome Luai bomb and a spectacular flying finish from fullback Brent Naden. Cleary’s conversion from directly in front made the score 18-0.
It was quickly turning into a party for the Panthers forwards as Leota offloaded to Clark, who in turn slipped a sneaky offload to Tyrone May for a 20th minute try between the sticks.
Looking sharp on his return from NSW Cup, Corey Harawira got in on the action seven minutes later as he took on multiple defenders and barged his way over in the corner. Cleary’s conversion attempt was waved away but the scoreboard read 28-0.
There was another addition to the highlights reel in the 31st minute as the Panthers spread the ball left and Christian Crichton finished the move with a superb one-handed grounding. Cleary was unsuccessful with the conversion attempt and the score remained 32-0.
Even when the Raiders earned a full set attacking Penrith’s line, some scrambling defence meant it only resulted in an intercept to Panthers winger Enese.
HALF-TIME – Panthers 32-0
The Panthers were slow out of the blocks after the break and paid the price in defence with two players placed on report for desperate tackles.
In the 52nd minute Fisher-Harris found Maliko Filino with a questionable pass and the centre broke the line. Drawing the Raiders’ fullback perfectly, he hit Crichton on his inside for the try. Cleary knocked the conversion over for a 38-0 lead.
After back-to-back penalties Canberra finally opened their account in the 57th minute with a neat step back on the inside and try to centre Cameron Booth. Dylan McGrath missed his conversion attempt to leave the score 38-4.
In the 60th minute Crichton couldn’t repeat his earlier acrobatics as he dived for the corner but lost possession in the process.
The Panthers were tossing the ball around in attack but the Raiders had plugged the gaps in their leaky defensive line of the first half.
The home side’s attack had also found some spark in the second half and centre Kody Parsons stretched out to score a try with five minutes left in the contest. The conversion was unsuccessful, leaving the score 38-8.
FULLTIME – Panthers 38-8