The Canterbury Cup Panthers opened their 2020 campaign with a hard-fought 20-6 win over North Sydney at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
Matt Burton and Tyrone May combined well, with Pat Hollis in particular proving a constant threat for the pair to pick out close to the line.
Hooker Brendan Hands was also a standout, with a couple of slicing runs and crisp service from dummy-half.
Meanwhile, Daine Laurie and Charlie Staines switched between fullback and the wing, offering pace from the back to start out Penrith’s sets well.
Laurie looked set to open the scoring for the Panthers when he sliced through and reached out, seeming to have grounded it over the line, only for the official to rule he was short.
It mattered little though, Penrith capitalising on the following play as Hands put Pat Hollis through a yawning gap close to the line.
Hollis then came up with a brilliant legs tackle to stop Tom Freebairn, who had steamed through off a pinpoint short ball.
Hands kicked the conversion to extend the lead to six.
The Bears continued to threaten, this time with a slick short-side raid but were forced into an error after a great tackle from Lindsay Smith, who recently signed a two-year extension with the club.
North Sydney eventually cracked Penrith as they ran it on the last, with a sneaky pass down the short-side catching the Panthers out and seeing Christian Tuipulotu score out wide.
Drew Hutchison converted the try to lock the game up.
Asu Kepaoa then split Penrith through the middle but Laurie stopped him in his tracks.
The speedy fullback then did to the Bears what Kepaoa had done to the home side but he was able to finish it off, finding winger Jake Tago trailing through the middle.
Hands slotted the conversion from right in front and Penrith regained their six-point lead.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 12 - Bears 6
With both sides trading sets early in the second half, Penrith decided to take the smart option and opt for a penalty goal to push their lead out to eight.
There was nothing conservative about the next play though as John Faiumu toed a ball ahead for himself and scooped it up in wet conditions to score a spectacular try.
Burton in particular looked Penrith’s most threatening late with a couple of slicing runs and well-weighted kicks but the score line did not change with the Panthers running out 20-6 winners.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 20 - Bears 6