The Harold Matthews Panthers continued their undefeated start to the season with a hard-fought 30-10 win over South Sydney Rabbitohs at Redfern Oval on Saturday.
Penrith charged to a strong 14-point lead by halftime on the back of a dominant display up front.
The Panthers rolled up through the middle, playing a far more aggressive and up-tempo game than Souths for the majority of the first half.
It allowed hooker Luke Hanson to shine early, taking advantage of the go-forward to have a hand in both of Penrith’s opening two tries.
He first took on the line and found five-eighth Isaiya Katoa in support as the Panthers made a statement in just the second minute of the match.
Hanson then muscled his way over close to the line off a quick play-the-ball.
The Rabbitohs eventually hit back when Javei Chan Kum Tong sliced over out of dummy-half.
But the Panthers were far slicker with the ball in hand.
Halfback Tylor Bunting threw a beautiful cut-out to put Ethan Hutchings over in the corner.
Bunting was at it again minutes later, this time putting Siotame Hansen through as the centre ran an aggressive line to bump off defenders before linking with fullback Cainan Hardiman in support.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 20 Rabbitohs 6
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The Panthers started the second half where they left off and this time it was all Latrelle Leota, bursting through on the right edge and racing away to toss aside the cover defence and score.
Winger Ezra Gosche almost pulled off one of the tries of the season as he fielded a clearing kick and stepped down the touchline, evading a number of Rabbitohs defenders and running over 50 metres before being dragged into touch.
Daniel Wright crossed over for the corner for Souths as they picked up their tempo and started to challenge Penrith’s aggression up front.
But the Panthers did not back down, charging up field after being trapped on their own goal line.
A quick exchange of passes on the short side between Hanson, Bunting and Hutchings saw the Panthers run 50 metres to score in the corner, only for the try to be pulled back with the officials ruling Hutchings had put a foot out in the lead-up.
The Rabbitohs continued to press late but the Panthers goal-line defence was pressing hard and fast.
Winning without the ball in hand is the sign of a resilient team capable of going very far and Penrith were rewarded for their defensive fortitude with a try shortly after.
Bunting ran at an angle before popping a pass for Hansen, who straightened up and charged straight through the Souths defence to seal the win.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 30 Rabbitohs 10