The Penrith Panthers have remained in first position on the NRL ladder, beating the Canberra Raiders 28 points to 12 on Saturday Night.
Despite the Panthers first half being undoubtedly the best of the year by any team, the game actually started with Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton kicking a 40/20 off the opening set of 6. The Raiders then had countless attacking sets and the Panthers were unable to gain possession of the ball until the 7th minute. From there, it took 4 minutes for Penrith to post first points, with Viliame Kikau strolling past John Bateman to put the Panthers up by 4.
The Panthers were gifted opportunities by the Raiders throughout the night, one of which came courtesy of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad dropping a high ball. What followed was attacking brilliance from Api Koroisau, who feigned to go one way with the ball from dummy half before putting Liam Martin through a gaping hole in the defensive line.
The Raiders then had two disallowed tries to Elliott Whitehead and Josh Papalii, before the Panthers struck again through the young try scoring machine Stephen Crichton, who beat Nick Cotric in a race to the ball in the in goal area.
Canberra had their backs to the wall for the last period of the first half but they looked to have kept Penrith to an 18 points, before Brent Naden showed some great athleticism to finish off a slick backline movement for his side right on the half time hooter. The score at the break was 24-0 and the Raiders had it all to do in the second 40 minutes.
The Raiders needed to score first in the second half, and that's exactly what they did when a seemingly innocuous run to the try-line from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad saw him somehow get the ball down and break the brick wall that was the Panthers defence. The effort prompted the Panthers to be more conservative in their attacking approach, opting to take the penalty goal when on offer and go up by 20 points.
The second half was much more of an arm wrestle than the first one, and the Raiders looked to be in with a slight chance when CNK went over yet again with 15 minutes to go. He dummied to the outside, pinned the ears back and dived for the line while 4 metres out from the line, the slippery grass doing the rest as well as Jarrod Croker nailing the conversion.
It wasn't to be however, with the Panthers holding the Raiders out for the rest of the night and adding two points to their own score after the final siren courtesy of a penalty goal. The win sees Penrith remain one point clear of the Melbourne Storm in second place, with the Eels 3 points behind but still with a game in hand against Cronulla tomorrow.
Next week, the Panthers will take on the resurgent Warriors on the Central Coast in a game that could potentially be very close, while the Raiders are back in Canberra to host the struggling Broncos.