Penrith Panthers have continued their perfect start to the 2021 season with a 30-4 win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at a sold-out BlueBet Stadium.
Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton were enormous at the back, combining for 531 metres while Charlie Staines scored a double in the victory.
Meanwhile, Nathan Cleary was at his classy best with two try assists and just as many linebreak assists before being rewarded with an early break.
The Panthers were engaged in a dogfight for the majority of the opening half but were first to score in a fast start.
Back-to-back penalties put the Panthers in the red zone and they capitalised right away with a slick right-edge raid putting Staines over in the corner.
Staines slides over to open the scoring at BlueBet Stadium
Execution though cost Penrith in the first half with Staines unable to finish off another lovely exchange of passes on the right on one occasion.
The Panthers then went down the short side a few tackles later but once again an opportunity went begging as Matt Burton coughed up possession.
The Bulldogs were relentless in building pressure during the opening half and were not just frustrating Penrith in defence.
Rather, they also were turning the Panthers around with the boot, recording four forced dropout as Jake Averillo in particular impressed with a varied kicking game.
Penrith though held firm in defence and were rewarded in the dying stages of the half as Spencer Leniu snatched a wayward offload from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to score the second try.
Leniu grabs his first NRL try
Cleary converted that try but was unsuccessful with his first attempt.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 10 - Bulldogs 0
The Bulldogs continued to challenge Penrith early in the second half before silky touches from Apisai Koroisau and Cleary sparked the first try of the second stanza.
A long looping ball from Koroisau out of dummy-half created space out wide and quick hands from Cleary and Paul Momirovski put Staines over for his second.
Momirovski then bagged a try of his own as he pounced on a well-weighted kick from Stephen Crichton.
Deft touch from Crichton sets up Momirovksi
The Panthers refused to let up as Cleary came up with a one-on-one strip before spinning it left to Matt Burton who went over.
Cleary slotted three of his four conversions before his early mark.
The highlight of the afternoon came in the 75th minute when Penrith repelled the Bulldogs once more on their own line and then turned defence into attack.
The Bulldogs went right as Matt Doorey dropped the ball and Burton was quick to take advantage as he raced away and linked with To’o.
He then gave it back to Burton who flung the ball inside and Crichton was trailing in support to score a sensational length-of-the-field try.
Crichton finishes spectacular long range four-pointer
Crichton could not convert his own four-pointer.
Moses Leota was sent to the sin bin late as the Bulldogs scored a late consolation try through Aaron Schoupp.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 30 - Bulldogs 4