Penrith Panthers have maintained their top two position on the SG Ball Cup ladder after demolishing the St George Dragons 28-4 at Kirkham Oval on Saturday.
The SG Ball win comes after the Harold Matthews side also recorded an impressive win over the Dragons.
Another dominant performance from Keagan Russell-Smith created trouble for the Dragons, who struggled to make it on the scoreboard amidst the fiery encounter.
Penrith made the most of the 12-man Dragons following the sin-binning of winger Godfrey Ilavalu to run in three tries in ten minutes to seal the victory.
An early error from St George gave the Panthers an opportunity to open the scoring before the ten-minute mark, spreading the ball out wide off a scrum feed to find winger Ethan Hutchings unmarked on the right edge.
Russell-Smith’s conversion attempt didn’t have enough power behind it, leaving the Panthers with a four-point advantage.
The Panthers continued to wear down the stamina St George’s defence, running full pace trying desperately to extend their lead.
But the light showers made it difficult for both teams to hang on to possession of the ball with each team subject to a collection of knock-ons.
A penalty granted Penrith one final opportunity for the first half, but a four-man pile on stopped Russell-Smith from creating something special.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 4 - DRAGONS 0
With neither team carrying momentum out of the first-half, the Panthers fought hard to find form again.
An intercept by winger Angelis Hotere-Papalii denied the Dragons an opportunity to draw level on the scoreboard.
Russell-Smith darted through the Dragons right side defence in the 49th minute, finding Hutchings on the wing in support.
With the defence grasping onto Hutchings, the winger placed a pin-point accurate kick to fullback Liam Ison, who was in the middle of the field. The young playmaker gathered the ball within five metres of the posts and dived over to score.
A close-range conversion assisted the Panthers’ cause, with Russell-Smith slotting the kick over the black dot to take his team’s lead to 10.
Interchange half Luke Hanson added another four-pointer to the scoreboard for the Panthers three minutes later, rolling under a collection of Dragons to ground the ball in goal.
Another crisp kick from Russell-Smith would make it difficult for the Dragons to edge their way back into the game.
A one-man advantage gave the Panthers an opportunity to pile on the tries in the middle of the second half, with Ilavalu sent to the sin-bin for repeat offences.
Luron Patea made the most of the missing man, splitting the Dragons line and charging towards the posts to score. Russell-Smith added the extras from a comfortable range, taking the score to 22-0.
Hanson added insult to injury for the depleted Dragons defence, putting second-rower Harrison Hassett into space to bag his fourth try of the season.
Nailing the conversion from touch, Russell-Smith’s conversion all but confirmed a win for Penrith.
Dragons captain Nicholas Quinn made a desperate attempt to open his team’s account with four minutes left of the game.
A full field effort from St George’s left edge put Quinn into space to reduce the deficit to 24 points, but the skipper’s kick from touch failed to find the posts.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 28 - DRAGONS 4