The Penrith Panthers have beaten the Canberra Raiders 28-12 to match the club’s record of eight straight wins, again proving they are the genuine NRL premiership threat in 2020.
- The Panthers equalled the club’s best winning streak, set in 2003
- Kalyn Ponga starred for the Knights in their 44-4 thrashing of the Wests Tigers
- Cameron Munster injured his knee in the Storm’s 41-10 win over the Bulldogs
In what shaped as another acid test of their premiership credentials, the Panthers flexed their muscles in a powerful first half to play last year’s beaten grand finalists out of the match.
The win drew the Panthers level with the club’s best winning streak, set in 2003, while they also finish a fourth straight round in top spot on the ladder.
In Saturday’s earlier matches, Newcastle’s finals hopes were given a massive boost with the heavy 44-4 defeat of the Wests Tigers, while Cameron Munster sustained a knee injury in the Melbourne Storm’s 41-10 victory over Canterbury.
Against the Raiders, halfback Nathan Cleary was again brilliant for the Panthers.
He became the youngest player to pass 700 first-grade points since Graham Eadie way back in 1976 with his first goal, while his combination with Viliame Kikau proved lethal when he isolated his teammate one-on-one.
He was also superb in defence, once helping hold up Josh Papalii alongside Apisai Koroisau and another time putting Jordan Rapana into touch.
It was Cleary and Kikau who got Penrith on the board when the hulking second rower was unleashed from close range in the 10th minute.
Koroisau had a hand in Penrith’s next try, darting out of dummy half and putting Liam Martin through a big hole.
And while the Panthers’ size and smarts are beating teams down in the middle, their speed and athleticism is doing the job out wide.
Stephen Crichton has 10 tries in his past eight matches and is now the NRL’s leading try scorer with 12, despite only getting his starting spot in round three.
The Panthers have now scored 10 tries on the right wing from the past five weeks, this time coming from Brent Naden with a classic on the sideline from a Tyrone May cut-out ball.
The Raiders, meanwhile, were not as bad as the scoreline suggested.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad had a nervous start at the back on return from a gruesome finger injury, but scored both of the team’s second-half tries.
The loss leaves the Raiders in fifth place on the ladder, two points behind the Roosters in the race for the top four and with a far inferior for-and-against.
Knights humiliate Wests Tigers
The Knights’ comprehensive win at home simultaneously threw the Tigers into a tailspin to save their own season as the dismal display produced their third consecutive loss.
For Green, it was the second win in as many weeks over the Tigers after arriving at the Knights from the Warriors at the start of the week.
An old hand at fitting in quickly, Green slipped easily into attacking structures and set up the first try of the night and put up the kick for the second within the first 14 minutes.
His experience allowed the new-look spine to click as the Knights advanced to a 24-4 half-time lead before completing a 40-point rout.
Star full-back Kalyn Ponga was as dangerous as he has been all season, scoring two tries as well as setting up another two.
His 194 run metres and three line breaks ripped through poor Tigers defence that did not do milestone man Chris Lawrence justice in his 250th NRL match.
In all, the Knights scored eight tries with Hymel Hunt, Starford To’a, Jacob Saifiti, Herman Ese’ese, Gehamat Shibasaki and Phonix Crossland also crossing over.
Half-back Benji Marshall, in his 250th appearance for the Tigers, had a particularly difficult night as his forward pack was thoroughly outmuscled.
Marshall and recalled halves partner Luke Brooks were targeted in defence, but had limited ball in attacking space to get points on the board.
The Tigers’ lone try was not a moment of brilliance and came just before half-time when Luciano Leilua kicked through a ball that ricocheted from Marshall’s boot to score.
Munster injury sours Storm win
Munster, a Queensland State of Origin representative, fell awkwardly in a tackle and is set to miss two matches.
The Storm were already without injured hooker Cameron Smith (shoulder), in-form full-back Ryan Papenhuyzen and forward Dale Finucane (both rested) on the Sunshine Coast.
Munster has already missed time with a knee injury this season and will now join Smith on the sidelines for next Thursday’s clash with the Sydney Roosters and possibly the following round against Parramatta.
The Munster injury did not fluster the Storm on Saturday, however, as replacement hooker Brandon Smith, back rower Kenny Bromwich (two tries) and new full-back Nicho Hines ran riot.
The Bulldogs did not help themselves. Lachlan Lewis and Josh Jackson both threw loose passes that were scooped up by wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu respectively for long-range tries.
The first was one of three in five minutes to break the match open, while Vunivalu made up for some lazy play to close the first half just as the Bulldogs threatened a boilover trailing 23-10.
Addo-Carr then added salt to the Bulldogs’ wounds, winning the race to a long kick down-field to grab a brace.
Hines was as far back as fourth in the pecking order last season but was all class in the number one jersey with strong carries, assured kicking, safe hands and an early try.
Lewis’s forgettable match included being sin-binned and placed on report for a high shot on Munster.
The Bulldogs (2-11) remain rooted to the bottom of the ladder, while the win was the Storm’s (11-2) seventh straight.