The Panthers Harold Matthews Cup and SG Ball sides both recorded convincing victories over St George Illawarra Dragons at Windsor Sports Complex on Saturday.
Panthers vs Dragons: Harold Matthews
The Harold Matthews Panthers strengthened their finals prospects with a bruising 36-4 win over the Dragons.
Penrith dominated possession early, marching upfield off back-to-back penalties before a well-weighted kick from five-eighth Jake Hay pinned the Dragons inside their own in-goal area.
Ryley Smith was strong early at lock, dragging defenders with him in every run. And they hit the lead when Jimmy Donnelly sliced over in the corner in the 9th minute.
The battle through the middle was being easily won by the Panthers, with Lafaele Tauapai and Kobi Borthwick picking up plenty of metres with each carry they made.
Momentum swung in St George Illawarra’s favour minutes later as consecutive penalties saw them camp on Penrith’s line.
But they turned them away, albeit losing Smith to a leg injury in the process.
After scoring the first try of the afternoon, Donnelly set up the second when he broke through the middle and found halfback Jack Cole in support.
And the speedy winger was in the thick of it again off the restart when he swerved through the Dragons defence off a John Sagaga offload and linked with Nicholas Lenaz to extend Penrith’s lead to 16.
Hay sliced through in the dying moments of the first half to reassert their dominance heading into the break. The five-eighth couldn’t convert his own try.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 20 Dragons 0
Pure strength saw Jecii Pritchard muscle his way over as early as Penrith capitalised on early field position.
They continued to pick up easy metres through the middle, with quick charges from Sagaga and Lenaz bringing the Panthers into the Dragons’ red zone once more.
And having struggled to maintain early leads throughout the season, this was a far more unforgiving Penrith side, with second rower Alfred Uelese bagging back-to-back tries to push their lead out to 36.
Having put in a faultless performance for almost 35 minutes, errors began to creep in late. But Penrith were just as impressive defending their line, with Hay in particular putting on bruising hits.
The pressure was eventually too much though, with Dragons fullback Patrick Tuakafa flying straight through off a sweeping play on the left edge.
It was their only highlight of the afternoon, with the Panthers running out comfortable 36-4 winners.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 36 Dragons 4
Panthers vs Dragons: SG Ball
The Panthers SG Ball side kept their finals aspirations alive for another week with a hard-fought 34-12 win over the Dragons.
While still two points adrift of a position in the top eight, the victory means Penrith can still qualify with a big win over West Coast Pirates next week.
However they will need to do it without gun winger Mason Iaria, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury.
The Panthers opened the scoring against the Dragons when halfback Sadee Sub Laban turned the ball back inside for Sunia Turuva who sliced through in the sixth minute.
Sub Laban was later rewarded with a try of his own after he trailed onto a Jai Wynburgen offload and bolted away to extend Penrith’s lead to 10.
The nifty halfback was at it again soon after when he put Ezra Coulston in space and the centre put Benjamin Glasheen over in the corner.
The Dragons eventually hit back when Jye Studdon pounced on a grubber in the 30th minute.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 16 Dragons 6
Penrith went close to pushing further ahead when Zion Tauasa tapped a Connor Mason kick to Cooper Pereira, only for the bat on to have been ruled forward.
A barge over try to Dragons lock Dallas Collins reduced the deficit to four.
Determined to keep their finals hopes alive, the Panthers re-established their lead when Mason shaped to grubber outside before instead kicking for himself and scooping up the ball to score under the posts.
Saints regained possession off the restart but were later forced into touch in a committed defensive effort from Penrith.
And they backed it up minutes later, with Pereira shutting down Aaron Stuart Johnson in a strong one-on-one tackle, stopping the Dragons lock from linking with two unmarked men on his outside.
Mason continued his strong individual performance when he put prop Braiden Magele through a gaping hole to seal the win.
A late try to Turuva, his second of the afternoon, only boosted their points differential, which may prove crucial in their quest for a finals berth.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 34 Dragons 12