The NYC Panthers title defence is well on track after the youngsters embarrassed the second-placed Roosters 50-4 at Allianz Stadium on Monday.
Penrith were forced to overcome the loss of playmaker Jarome Luai to a knee complaint but the way in which they adjusted to the injury blow was impressive.
Panthers coach Cam Ciraldo made a late change with Christian Crichton making a long-awaited return from an ankle injury on the bench.
In the 10th minute Panthers prop Cowen Epere looked like he might crash his way over but after being pulled down just short, he lost possession and the opportunity went with it.
Eight minutes later, with consecutive sets on the Roosters line, the Panthers opened the scoring. Off the back of some strong forward charges playmaker Nathan Cleary found the right pass to put Dylan Edwards over for the try. Cleary’s attempted conversion was waved away but the visitors led 4-0.
The Panthers were struck a huge blow in the 24th minute as Jarome Luai was taken out by the Roosters defenders as he put up a fifth-tackle bomb. As play was stopped, the Penrith five-eighth was assisted from the field with a left knee injury. Tyrone May shifted into the halves, with Crichton coming on as a backrower.
However the visitors continued to pepper the Roosters defensive line and a smart dummy from Wayde Egan saw the hooker crash over in the tackle. Cleary kicked the simple conversion and the Panthers were out to a 10-0 lead after 28 minutes.
There was more than a touch of fortune in the Panthers next try as the Roosters defenders were bamboozled by a high ball. After taking a bounce and being regathered by Penrith, it was spread to Ratu Tuisese to cut back from the left edge and score. Cleary knocked over the conversion to make the score 16-0 with five minutes to the break.
Both sides attempted audacious chip kicks as the first half came to a close but neither paid dividends.
HALFTIME – Panthers 16-0
A sneaky grubber from Roosters halfback Jesse Marschke earned his side a repeat set early in the second half but some scrambling defence managed to repel the danger.
Braidon Burns made a scything run down the sideline in the 50th minute and after drawing the fullback, decided to dummy to an open Tuisese on his outside. The Roosters fullback Jake Steadman didn’t fall for it and instead nailed Burns, who lost the ball moments later.
The Panthers weren’t left without reward for long though. A Roosters turnover coming out of trouble gifted the Panthers possession and big man Epere powered his way over. Cleary’s conversion pushed the score out to 22-0.
From their next set the Panthers went the length of the field to score again. A sailing bomb from Cleary on the last tackle was expertly plucked out of the air by Edwards and the fullback showed great strength to dive over in the tackle. Another Cleary conversion and the Panthers were out to a 28-0 lead in the 55th minute.
Tuisese grabbed his second try after the Roosters again failed to deal with a Cleary bomb. This time the Panthers regathered possession and one tackle later spun the ball to the left edge for the winger to touch down in acrobatic fashion. Cleary’s conversion missed but it was suddenly 32-0 with 23 minutes left to play.
Burns made up for his earlier misdemeanour with a strong effort to score in the in the 62nd minute. Cleary was on target to make it 38-0.
Roosters fullback Steadman was having a nightmare time under the Cleary high ball and three minutes later he spilled another one. This time May was the man on the spot to ground the ball for the simplest of tries. With another conversion the scoreboard was beginning to look very ugly for the Roosters – 44-0.
The home side grabbed a consolation try in the 72nd minute as winger Bernard Lewis managed to wrong-foot Jake Ennis and dive over in the corner.
As the final siren sounded May again found himself in the right place at the right time to swoop on a loose ball and score. Cleary's conversion added a bit of extra sweetness to that final scoreline.
FULLTIME - Panthers 50-4