The Panthers posted a remarkable 56-24 victory over Cronulla Sharks, with the help of four tries on debut by Charlie Staines.
Staines enjoyed one of the greatest NRL debuts in recent memory, scoring four tries and assisting another in a points-fest at Jubilee Stadium. The Panthers scored a total of ten tries in a fourth-straight victory which propels them into first place on the live ladder.
Stephen Crichton also bagged a double, while Liam Martin, Dylan Edwards and Billy Burns also crossed the stripe.
And if scoring nine tries was not enough, the Panthers did it in the absence of Brian To’o, Dean Whare, Zane Tetevano and Kurt Capewell.
The Panthers came out firing and blew the Sharks off the park in the early stages, scoring five tries inside 25 minutes.
Brent Naden— playing right centre— bagged the first try as the Panthers went up 6-0 in the fourth minute. Attacking the line, Nathan Cleary shifted it to Dylan Edwards, who poked through and handed it off for Naden to stroll over.
Naden opens the scoring against Cronulla
Shortly after defending a set on their own line, the Panthers marched upfield and extended their lead to twelve points in as many minutes.
Api Koroisau bamboozled the Sharks’ goal line defence with some crafty movement, before putting it on the chest of Liam Martin for the second rower to stroll through.
Koroisau's deception gifts Martin an easy try
A desperate defensive effort by Dylan Edwards saved a certain Sharks try for Bryson Goodwin, and the Panthers piled on their third soon after.
On the back of some long-awaited set restarts, the Panthers shifted it to the left edge and Stephen Crichton dived over in the corner after a swift Jarome Luai pass.
Crichton continues try-scoring spree
Nathan Cleary missed his sideline conversion attempt and picked up a minor ankle injury in doing so, as the score remained 16-0 after 20 minutes.
Debutant Charlie Staines announced himself to the NRL with a couple of big plays in quick succession, as the floodgates burst open.
Staines celebrated his debut with a try, sliding over on the right wing at the end of a set piece including great passes from Nathan Cleary and Dylan Edwards.
Staines scores memorable try on debut
Moments later, Staines returned the favour for Edwards as the Panthers scored their fifth.
Staines showcased his blistering speed as he broke down the right wing from inside his own half, before his bullet pass back on the inside allowed Edwards to streak away.
Stephen Crichton assumed goal-kicking duties and added the extras to make it 26-0 after 27 minutes.
Staines sets up Edwards' four-pointer
The Panthers’ defence had been just as good as their attack in the early stages of the first half, before conceding two soft tries before halftime to give Cronulla a sniff.
On the back of an unforced error, Briton Nikora sliced through to breathe some life into Cronulla. Then, on the stroke of halftime, Blayke Brailey barged over from dummy half. Shaun Johnson converted both to reduce the Panthers’ lead to 14 points.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 26 – SHARKS 12
Coach Ivan Cleary would have been disappointed in the Panthers’ complacency, but they strengthened their grip on the game with a try early in the second half.
Staines slid over for his second, again from a pass by Edwards. A cross-field kick by Nathan Cleary was batted down by Naden for Edwards, who found the debutant unmarked to make it 30-12.
Staines scores a double on debut
The Panthers were set back when James Tamou was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul, but ended up scoring in the absence of their captain.
Billy Burns charged onto the ball close to the line, and after being caught high by Aaron Woods, bounced back up to slam it down.
Nathan Cleary retrieved the kicking tee and knocked the conversion over for 36-12 after 57 minutes.
The Sharks would post points while the Panthers were down a man, as Jesse Ramien came back against the grain to score. Johnson’s conversion trimmed the margin down to 18 points after 60 minutes.
Shortly after Tamou returned from the sin bin, Aaron Woods was sent for 10 minutes for a professional foul. This allowed Cleary to kick a penalty goal and make it 38-18.
Any lingering doubts over the result were put to bed in the 66th minute when Stephen Crichton scored his second as the Panthers surpassed the 40-point barrier.
Following a big break by Brent Naden, the Panthers shifted it left where Crichton dummy passed and strolled over the line. Cleary converted, the score 44-18 after 68 minutes.
Crichton grabs a double at Kogarah
The Panthers were baying for blood, but their search for a ninth try ended in an intercept try to Sharks winger Nene Macdonald.
But the ninth eventually came, as Staines completed his hat-trick when when he latched onto a brilliant, looping pass by Tyrone May.
Staines has a hat-trick on debut
Nathan Cleary landed the sideline conversion, bringing up 50 points for the Panthers.
But the Panthers weren’t done yet, and rounded out their enormous victory as Charlie Staines scored his fourth try on debut, sliding over in the corner after some great lead-up work by Brent Naden.
Cleary was up to the task from out wide once again, completing an extraordinary Panthers victory.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 56 – SHARKS 24