The Penrith Panthers have announced their premiership credentials with a dominant 40-0 thumping of the Newcastle knights in front of 10,567 fans at Pepper Stadium.
Many pundits were tipping a comprehensive victory for the home side, and that was how it unfolded in the first forty. It was largely on the base of great running metres from the Panthers, with both their back line and forward pack finding line breaks aplenty early. Penrith grabbed an early penalty with the Knights given their first test defending their line - and the result was not promising for the away side.
A nicely executed shift saw Dallin Watene-Zelezniak cross out wide for an early try. It was almost déjà vu a couple of minutes later when Watene-Zelezniak would go close again in the exact same spot, only to place his foot on the touch line. It looked to be a critical turning point when Matt Moylan threw an intercept pass to Ken Sio yet some scrambling defence from Penrith denied him.
The Knights continued to threaten with a couple of drop outs forced, placing pressure on the home side. However, it was repelled and the Panthers were rewarded minutes later when debutant Corey Harawira-Naera ran straight through in the 20th minute to score.
Newcastle were gifting Penrith possession with another penalty seeing the home side march up the field and they made the Knights pay. It was even easier this time with Te Maire Martin basically walking over in the 25th minute. Martin would have a hand in the next try, forcing a goal line drop out and then finding Harawira-Naera out wide who linked with Tyrone Peachey in the 29th minute to further extend the home side's lead to 22. Off the kick off Dallin Watene-Zelezniak would burst through and find Peter Wallace in support with only an error from the Penrith hooker seeing the Knights survive.
The Knights had a couple of chances late but were unable to capitalise and headed into the second half down 22-0 courtesy of a 60% advantage in possession for the home side.
The Panthers opened the second half with an odd choice, opting for the early two points. Yet, the Knights slowly made their way up the field thanks to an early penalty and a great pass from Brock Lamb would see Sio fly over in the corner - only for the pass to be called forward. It proved a crucial decision as minutes later Peter Mata'utia would be ruled to have dropped the ball ten metres out.
While that decision may have been controversial, the Newcastle side had no one to blame but themselves when Wallace strolled over for one of the simplest tries I have seen from dummy half in the 53rd minute. Nathan Cleary would then force the drop out and Dean Whare would grab a deserved try only moments later.
It looked as if the Knights would finally get on the board in the 63rd minute when Nathan Ross collected a grubber and scooted away. However, in a stunning play, Martin would display his pace and run down Ross - but that was not all. Ross would play the ball and would have no teammates in support. The Panthers pounced on the ball and claimed a subsequent penalty with the Knights blowing a serious chance at their first points.
They did have a few more opportunities courtesy of a couple of Penrith errors, yet, they still could not break the Penrith defence. And a massive run by Isaah Yeo would see Cleary dummy and slide over in the 75th minute. That was all she wrote with the Panthers holding out the Knights late to claim an emphatic 40-0 victory.
It was an important win for the Panthers with a serious test looming next week when they travel to AAMI Park to face the currently undefeated Storm on Saturday night. Meanwhile, it gets no easier for the Knights - they are off to Southern Cross Group Stadium for a Saturday afternoon clash with the Sharks.