The Jersey Flegg Penrith Panthers have crushed the Canberra Raiders 64-16 at BlueBet Stadium on Sunday.
Zac Lipowicz came off the interchange bench to assist three of the Panthers' 11 tries, while centre William Fakatoumafi claimed a hat-trick and fullback Isaiah Iongi snagged a double.
The Panthers opened the scoring in the fifth minute after Niwhai Puru placed a perfect chip kick into the air, which was fumbled by the Raiders in-goal. Fakatoumafi gathered possession of the ball and made no mistake on the put-down. Puru added the extras from close range, taking the Panthers' lead to six.
The Raiders hit back with some quick passing on the left edge through the hands of Thomas Casey and Josh Smith found centre Steven Numambo unmarked on the wing. Numambo’s try proved too difficult to convert for Raiders hooker Mitchel Souter, as the home team maintained a two-point advantage.
Sending the kick-off out on the full, Penrith would give Canberra another chance to strike in the minutes that followed. Gaining significant metres from the penalty, the Raiders charged at their try-line, eventually finding prop Eneseli Kamuta who muscled his way through four defenders before placing the ball on the line. This time Souter had more luck with the conversion, adding the extra two points from in front of the posts to level the sores.
After spilling the ball on their try-line, the Raiders gave Penrith an opportunity to re-gain the lead. Panthers centre Fakatoumafi identified a gap in the Canberra defensive line, racing into the corner to score his second try. The conversion from touch waved away for Puru, but the effort from Fakatoumafi was enough to put Penrith on the front foot.
Using the building momentum to their advantage, a tackle break from Panthers interchange forward Zac Lipowicz split the Raiders line. Lipowicz found Ativalu Lisati in support who offloaded to Puru. Sprinting down the centre of the field Puru added an extra four points to the board before kicking the conversion to extend his teams lead to six.
Lipowicz broke the Raiders line again four minutes later, this time looking left to find fullback Isaiah Iongi in support who crossed between the posts. Puru slotted the conversion from close range taking the score to 22-10.
A third try assist for Lipowicz came in within four minutes of half-time. The interchange forward spun around with Raiders fullback Rayden Burns attached to his ankle to spot Cody Lawson unmarked on the right wing.
The recipient of a rainbow pass, Lawson dived over in to corner to make it 26-10 for the Panthers. Puru’s conversion just scraped through the posts to extend the home side’s lead to 18 points on half time.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 28 - RAIDERS 10
Iongi raced through the Raiders line in the opening minute of the second half, bumping off four defenders before snagging another four-pointer. Puru made the conversion look easy from in front.
Eager to get back on the scoreboard, the Raiders capitalised off a knock-on by Penrith with Souter diving through the legs of Aiden Kawiri to score off dummy-half. Converting his own try, the Raiders hooker reduced the deficit to 18-points.
Driving up the field, the Panthers were in again in the 54th minute as the tiring Canberra defence failed to stop Fakatoumafi from scoring his third try of the day. Puru added the extras to solidify Penrith’s extensive lead.
A late flurry of tries for the Panthers ensured the Raiders had no hope of a come-back.
Bradley Fearnley, Daniel Sykes, Daeon Amituanai all reined in tries for the Panthers, whilst Puru slotted the conversions for across the park.
Braith Alexander sealed the victory for Penrith on the siren, gathering a kick and diving across the line. Puru made it 10 conversions from 11 attempts to confirm the Panthers resounding win.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 64 - RAIDERS 16