Penrith Panthers lead Canberra Raiders 24-6 in their clash at BlueBet Stadium.
After a dominant first period, Stephen Crichton dived for the first try of the day to put the Panthers ahead before a Joseph Tapine try locked in the scores.
However, the Panthers retook the lead with a try from skipper Isaah Yeo six minutes from half-time, before a Nathan Cleary penalty goal made it 14-6 at half-time.
The Panthers picked up where they left off in the second half with Crichton catching a brace, including a penalty try to seal his hat trick to put the home side in the box seat.
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Crichton looked certain to score his third try, before being knocked out for a kick, but was eventually awarded a penalty try to seal his hat trick.
The weight of Panthers possession overwhelmed the Raiders in the second half with Stephen Crichton dotting for his second of the afternoon.
“Chrichton is such a wonderful athlete,” Ennis said.
“He’s such a good finisher.
“The Raiders should be proud of their defense, but it’s just the Panthers’ class in key moments that saw them come through.”
The Panthers resumed their lead with a try from skipper Isaah Yeo after some smart prep work from debutant Soni Luke.
“A one-on-one game of new man Soni Luke jumping off the dummy,” Smith said.
“I thought it was an interesting exchange just before halftime,” Ennis said.
“Koroisau was absolutely superb to start this game, but Luke brought real energy and deception to the dummy half.
“The unpredictability in this position on the pitch. With teams expecting Isaah Yeo to play ball at the time, it was Soni Luke out of the dummy half that went straight.
“Yeo just pushes into the hole and he catches the Raiders napping.”
The Raiders responded with a try to back Joseph Tapine to lock the scores at 6-6 after some smart work from hooker Tom Starling.
“With their first chance, it was Starling, the little half-model, trying to get out of the ruck and Tapine who had a terrific start to the game,” said Michael Ennis.
“Just watch him switch lines and hit the holeshot. Good signs and a good start from Tom Starling.
After a period of dominance, the Panthers scored the first try of the afternoon through Stephen Crichton as the brave Canberra defense finally gave way.
“It took them a bit of time to sort things out, but the repeated pressure on all that defense inside their red zone had to eventually trickle down to Canberra,” said Warren Smith.
The Panthers will be looking forward to maintaining their unbeaten run when they take on the Canberra Raiders on Saturday afternoon at BlueBet Stadium.
Ivan Cleary debuted Soni Luke who replaces Mitch Kenny on the bench.
Ricky Stuart shuffled his squad roster with Harry Rushton, Hudson Young, Matt Frawley and Trey Mooney in this week’s squad, with Rushton making his NRL debut.
Rushton’s parents traveled from the other side of the world to present him with his first jersey.
He’ll come off the bench shooting, as Stuart tries to find a solution to the Raiders’ current form.
After a comfortable 40-12 victory over the Broncos last week, the Panthers will look to do the same against a Raiders team that has yet to find consistency.
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Stuart is also showing confidence in Jordan Rapana, naming him in the starting squad at the back over Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad who is on the bench.
Adam Elliott starts at the lock with Hudson Young in second and Ryan Sutton moving to the pin.
The exciting young Xavier Savage takes up position on the wing.
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