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Nine and dandy: Panthers roll on as Staines bags three

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary offered an "it's only round nine" response when asked if his side and the Storm were well clear of the rest of the competition. 

Last year's grand finalists were ruthless in their shut-out 48-0 performance against a hapless Sharks outfit on Friday night to respond to Melbourne's 50-0 win over South Sydney just over 24 hours earlier. 

With superstar half Nathan Cleary in complete control and Charlie Staines crossing for a hat-trick, the Panthers had too much class for a Sharks side which committed 11 errors.

Staines' treble gave him seven tries in two games against Cronulla and 12 in his 11 career games.

The Panthers are now 9-0 - the best start for an NRL club since Melbourne in 2012 - but Cleary wasn't getting carried away with their latest achievement. 

"It's round nine, a long way to go," Cleary said 

"I've said this before, no one remembers the first half of a year and we've still got Origin to get through and all that.

"We're just happy plugging away each week and enjoying our footy. We're just starting our journey."

Cleary's son Nathan and his halves partner Jarome Luai were at their weaving, energetic best to play a part in six tries in another strong audition for a Blues partnership in Origin I.

Three tries inside 20 minutes set up an 18-0 lead for the home side as the visitors struggled to keep up with the competition leaders.

Staines finishes with a hat-trick

"The boys prepared really well and I felt good with how we were going to play tonight based on that," Cleary said.

"I'm pretty happy with how we're going. Tonight we had better intensity throughout the 80 minutes."

In the only concern for the Panthers, hooker Api Koroisau was placed on report for a crusher tackle on Sharks prop Aiden Tolman.

"You're always concerned on those type of ones, because it's very easy to get suspended in the current climate," Cleary said. 

"I didn't see it that closely and he obviously wasn't hurt so hopefully they sort it out."

Powerhouse prop James Fisher-Harris opened the scoring in the sixth minute as he bagged his first try since round five, 2019.

Cleary's mid-field bombs began to come into play with Sharks fullback Will Kennedy not in the mood to try and defuse the towering kicks.

Cleary, Luai, Burton, more points

Staines grabbed his first in the 12th minute before a frantic pass from Sharks centre Jesse Ramien delivered the Panthers' third. Cleary was again in the play with a kick for Stephen Crichton to cross.

In his return from a glute injury, Ramien left the field in the 27th minute after copping an accidental Viliame Kikau elbow to the face and was unable to return after failing his HIA.

Sharks coach Josh Hannay reacted in the second half with playmaker Chad Townsend taken off as the Panthers ran in their fifth try through Kikau.

Fellow back-rower Kurt Capewell laid on the try with a deft grubber although there was plenty of doubt over Kikau's grounding of the ball.

Townsend's quiet night brought Matt Moylan into the game after a two-week lay-off from a quad injury, but it made little difference on a night that belonged to his former side, with Staines rounding out his hat-trick in the 77th minute and Matt Eisenhuth crossing in the 80th off a Cleary grubber.

Crichton hits and spins his way to a try

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.