Boosted by the return of Nathan Cleary in the No.7 jersey, the Panthers powered past the Bulldogs 44-18 on Sunday to secure their fourth win on the trot.
The Panthers blew their opponents off the park through an opening half hour in which they scored five tries, before piling on a further 16 points in the second 40 minutes.
With their 13th win of the season Penrith ensured they remain atop the Telstra Premiership ladder on for and against points, while for the Dogs it marked the fifth time in 2023 that they have given up more than 40 points in a game.
Cleary didn't miss a beat in his first game back since suffering a hamstring injury in Round 14, laying on two try assists and kicking six from eight off the tee, while representative winger Brian To'o enjoyed a huge day out on the right wing.
Doubles to Tyrone Peachey – who was a late addition to the squad after Izack Tago withdrew with a leg injury – and To'o stunned the Dogs through the opening exchanges, while co-captain Isaah Yeo also got over for his second four-pointer of the season.
Tyrone Peachey try 19th minute
A try to recalled centre Paul Alamoti four minutes before the break, which former Panther Matt Burton converted, was all the Bulldogs had to celebrate through the first half.
While the visitors made a far more positive start to the second period, it was the Panthers who were first on the board again, with Stephen Crichton crossing, before Scott Sorensen added a seventh on the hour mark to stretch the lead out to 40-6.
Paul Alamoti try 26th minute
Interchange forward Luke Garner was next to score and then minutes later saved one when he forced Blake Wilson into touch on his way to crossing in the corner.
Canterbury-Bankstown finally found some joy in the last 10 minutes, with Jake Averillo scooting over and Jeral Skelton scoring his first try at NRL level.
Match: Panthers v Bulldogs
Round 21 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
- It was the fourth time this year the Panthers have scored 40 or more points in a game.
- Spencer Leniu failed to take part in the second half after suffering a suspected MCL injury.
- Penrith forward Liam Martin went on report in the eighth minute after being found to have raised his elbow during a hit-up.
- The Bulldogs had Corey Waddell cited for a possible hip drop, while Tevita Pangai Junior was put on report for a Dangerous Tackle.
Panthers swimming in tries
- After switching to hooker before kick-off, Kyle Flanagan made a game-high 47 tackles.
- In addition to scoring two tries, Brian To'o carried the ball for 241 metres and broke 10 tackles.
- The Panthers lost just three times in their past 36 games at BlueBet Stadium.
- Nathan Cleary marked his 150th NRL appearance in the win.
Play of the Game
There were plenty to choose from for the Panthers, but Brian To'o's second on the half hour was special. Dylan Edwards did well to break free and offload initially, before the pace and evasion of To'o proved too much for the chasing pack.
Brian To'o with a Spectacular Try vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
What They Said
"I'm probably as proud of them this week as I have been for a long time. The scoreline, I obviously don't like letting in that many points, but the way the game started and the adversity we had there, I am really proud of how they hung in there and I thought we finished really strong." – Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo.
Bulldogs: Round 21
"We started the game exactly how we wanted to. It got a little bit scrappy at the end of the first half, we didn't quite have the defensive edge we would have liked, but that's probably understandable in a way. I thought we started the second half with that defensive mindset. It was just good to have the whole gang back together; looking forward to the next few weeks where we should hopefully go a bit better." – Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.
Panthers: Round 21
The Panthers are at home again in Round 22 when they host the Sharks, with Izack Tago a chance of being available again after he was a late withdrawal from the Bulldogs game with a minor leg injury. Canterbury-Bankstown meanwhile take a home game to Bundaberg, with Josh Addo-Carr (hamstring), Jacob Preston (illness) and Viliame Kikau (pectoral) good chances of being available after missing Round 21.