Penrith Panthers have momentarily gone top on the NRL Premiership after a 56-24 thumping of Cronulla Sharks this afternoon at Kogarah Oval.
Last weekend was a tense, terse and emotion-filled contest, this week the Panthers went for a stroll in the park. Debutant Charlie Staines was the star with four tries alongside a double to Stephen Crichton in the thrashing which has sent the Panthers to the top of the NRL Premiership.
Getting the call-up to the 21-man squad this weekend, Staines might've hoped to just get on the field but the debutant starred in the Panthers right edge. Brent Naden opened the scoring but from there, Staines took over. The 19-year-old crossed twice in the corner where his mates were behind the fence to cheer him on in the first half then as his mates switched ends, Staines helped the Panthers cross the half-century and bag himself a four-try haul.
From the opening whistle, it was a mismatch. Panthers scored off their first chance through Naden before Liam Martin, Crichton and of course Staines all strode over as the Panthers to beat the clock as they led 26-nil after 25 minutes. Barring some ill-discipline which saw James Tamou sin-binned in the second half, Penrith did what they had to to defeat one of the lesser lights of the NRL.
The Sharks were all huff, no puff. Two late tries from Briton Nikora and Blayke Brailey gave them some false hope but they were never at the races. Errors, penalties and a sin-bin to former representative player Aaron Woods blighted a second half which saw put a house deposit on the spot behind the goal posts.
It showed that the three straight victories had masked the problems in the Shire. They are flat track bullies who put on some points late when the contest was gone through Jesse Ramien and a returning Nene Macdonald, but now having conceded 50 points, cannot figure in the Premiership calculations.
Saturday night was for the Staines though. The debutant continues to highlight a production line from the Central West which the Panthers have tapped into which has helped to create a genuine Premiership threat. Staines became the first player since Jordan Aitkens - for the Titans - in 2008 to score four on debut. Another product from the area in Billy Burns strolled across in the second half procession as the Panthers move into first.
The first half was played at a frantic pace from the Panthers. Once they got the sniff through Naden's opener, they piled on the points with four further tries to lead 26-12 at the break. There was a short see-saw action in the try-scoring before the Panthers stamped their authority with three tries in the final ten minutes.
Licking their wounds with the loss, the Sharks also had Andrew Fifita, Siosifa Talakai and Sione Katoa all leave the field before full-time adding to the injury ward which has Matt Moylan on the sideline already which leaves coach John Morris with plenty of headaches for next weekend.