The Panthers delivered an attacking masterclass, scoring ten tries in a 52-6 thrashing of St George Illawarra Dragons in the NSW Cup at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday.
New recruit Preston Riki was promoted to the starting side in his first outing for the club, dominating a physical forward pack boasting plenty of NRL experience.
Chris Smith opened the scoring in the 11th minute of the game, continuing his strong start to the year running a great line on the right edge and beating a number of defenders.
Kurt Falls failed to convert from out wide. One of many difficult attempts in the afternoon for the number seven.
Eddie Blacker continued the try-scoring run for the forwards, taking on the Dragons from close range in the 20th minute of the game. Falls added the extras from a difficult angle to give the Panthers a 10-0 lead.
Falls played a key role in the next four-pointer. The halfback popped his head through the line and found halves partner Niwhai Puru looming up in support. The conversion extended the lead to 16.
The Panthers continued their great start, Taylan May strolling over on the half hour mark thanks to quick hands from Riki on the inside. The touchline conversion attempt was waved away.
The home side didn’t take the foot off the accelerator late in the half as Tom Jenkins and Preston Riki both crossed the line.
Riki’s first try in Panthers colours will be one to remember, as he finished off a long movement that included two kicks and a number of passes along the way. Tom Jenkins, Robert Jennings and May all kept the ball alive, with May putting in a cross-field kick which landed in the path of Riki, who scooped up the ball and beat the oncoming defence in a 20 metre run to the corner.
Falls had another tough conversion attempt, this time adding the extras to give the Panthers a 30-point lead at the break.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 30 – Dragons 0
It was more of the same to start the second half as Falls laid on two more four-pointers off his right foot.
The first saw damaging back-rower John Faiumu pounce on a grubber kick before Tom Jenkins flew above the pack in the 50th minute.
Falls converted Jenkins second four-pointer to take the lead to 40.
Former Panther Dean Blore got the Dragons on the board in the 55th minute, the five-eighth taking on the line from close range. He converted his own try.
Robert Jennings restored order soon after, getting a four-pointer of his own thanks to a quick interchange of passes in the middle third. Jennings stepped off his right to beat a number of sliding defenders. Falls added the extras to regain the 40-point ascendancy.
Left centre Matt Stimson brought up the half century for the Panthers in the 70th minute, scoring one of the easiest tries of his career in the process. For the second time in the afternoon the second kick did the damage for the Dragons, Falls toeing the ball ahead and finding Stimson in a world of space.
Falls added the icing on the cake, nailing the conversion from out wide.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 52 – Dragons 6