The Panthers NSW Cup team have snagged another piece of silverware for their trophy cabinet, defeating Norths Devils 44-10 to claim the NRL State Championship at Accor Stadium on Sunday.
Panthers hooker Soni Luke was superb, scoring a try and setting up three others while J’maine Hopgood bagged two of Penrith’s eight tries and ran over 200 metres.
Forward John Faiumu scored a try off the bench and kicked a conversion from touch to seal a successful afternoon for Peter Wallace’s team.
The video referee overruled the on-field decision of a try for Panthers winger Sunia Turuva in the fourth minute, denying the enigmatic winger the opening points of the game.
Just three minutes later, a grubber from Soni Luke off a switch play from dummy half put skipper J’maine Hopgood over for the opening try. Kurt Falls converted the try from close range to extend the lead to six.
A significant head-clash between Chris Smith and Jack Cole resulted in the Panthers losing their second-rower and five-eighth at the same time due to injury. With the left-edge defence reshuffled, Devils centre Jacob Gagan dived through the line to score, however he knocked the ball on in the process.
Luke added another four-points to the board for Penrith in the 28th minute, when the hooker faked two passes to his right before crashing over under the posts. Falls converted the try to make the difference 12.
Four minutes later Matt Eisenhuth put fellow forward Eddie Blacker over with a cut-out ball and Falls slotted the conversion to extend the lead to 18.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 18 - DEVILS 0
Interchange forward John Faiumu opened Penrith’s second-half account after Falls sent him through a gap in the line to score untouched. The halfback failed to convert the try, leaving the score at 22-0.
Another stellar attacking play from Luke gave the Panthers an opportunity to score three minutes later with the hooker taking on the line before flicking a pass to Robert Jennings who streamed through a hole to put the ball down. Falls couldn’t convert from touch.
In the 60th minute an incredible chase from 19-year-old Panthers fullback Isaiah Iongi stopped Norths skipper Jack Ahearn from scoring their first try. While Penrith attempted to get back in line to defend, Luke was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Two minutes later, returning Panthers centre Tom Jenkins secured a short dropout attempt from Falls to put his team back on the front foot. In the same set, Luke Sommerton broke the line, sprinting 40 metres to score. Falls added the extras to extend the lead to 32.
Norths centre Tony Tumusa received put the Devils on the board in the 64th minute but Connor Broadhurst couldn’t convert the try from out wide.
Luke and Hopgood combined in similar fashion to the first half. With Luke returning to the field following a 10-minute stint in the sin-bin, he placed a grubber through the line that sat up for the departing lock to ground in-goal and grab his second of the afternoon. Falls converted the try to give Penrith a 34-point advantage.
Devils winger Rashaun Denny scored in the 73rd minute thanks to a cut-out ball that created an overlap on the right edge. Broadhurst kicked the conversion from the sideline to reduce the deficit to 28.
After being denied the first try of the game, Turuva got a much deserved four-pointer on the siren as he made his way down the left touchline. Faiumu converted the try from touch to give Penrith a 34-point victory over their Queensland counterparts.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 44 - DEVILS 10