Penrith have continued on their unbeaten run in 2021, defeating the Canberra Raiders by 30-10 in front of a sell-out crowd at Blue Bet Stadium tonight.
The win creates more history for Ivan Cleary's young side, as they become the first Panthers side in history to win their opening five games to start the season. Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai was the hero, with the Samoan international grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck at the back end of the first half, where his side ran in three successive tries to give Penrith the momentum to go on with a commanding win.
Canberra will lament some missed opportunities that came their way with some poor handling and poor discipline at times just when they needed to claw back momentum off the enthusiastic Panthers outfit.
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the club's first premiership, the Panthers were provided with a guard of honour from the successful 1991 side in front of a packed house which set the scene for a historic night in front of their parochial home base.
However just like a year earlier in 1990, it was the Raiders who spoiled the party early when they drew first blood, when Jack Wighton ran a strong line stepping off his left foot to crash over for what has become a trademark try from the 2020 Dally M Medallist. Jarrod Croker converted and the Raiders led 6-0.
Wighton was terrorising the Panthers inside the opening twenty minutes, when he again threatened to take on the Panthers defensive line, before delivering a deft grubber for his skipper Croker who unfortunately could not ground the ball in goal in what proved a crucial missed chance.
Raiders winger Jordan Rapana then committed a cardinal sin when he gave away a penalty while in possession, which gave Penrith an invitation to get back into the game. Nathan Cleary then returned his RSVP, when he demanded the ball out the back and found his fullback Stephen Crichton off a set play. Crichton then delivered a beautiful flick pass out the back for Charlie Staines to score in the corner. Cleary nailed the conversion from the sideline to tie up the scoreline.
Penrith then scored back-to-back tries, when Matt Burton scored off a delicious pass from Jerome Luai close to the line to take the lead. Cleary then again converted from out wide and it was 12-6 as halftime loomed.
Luai continued to return serve to his opposite Wighton in the back half of the first stanza, when the mercurial Panthers five-eighth grubbered for himself to score a brilliant individual try before the siren. Cleary again converted the try to give the Panthers a sudden 18-6 lead at halftime.
The game continued to see-saw in the Second Half until Jack Wighton called for the ball out wide following a Hudson Young bust and produced a lovely pass from Elliott Whitehead to allow the skipper Jarrod Croker to touch down in the corner and get the Raiders back in the match and narrow the score to 18-10 with 20 minutes remaining.
Penrith put themselves back in the driver's seat when Charlie Staines scored his second try of the night after some superb service from his centre Paul Momirovski to give the home side the biggest lead of the match when Cleary converted from the stripe to make it 24-10.
Nathan Cleary then snatched an intercept late in the game to race 70 metres to ice the game for the Panthers and give his side their best victory of 2021 so far.
Penrith now travel to Brisbane next Thursday night, where they face the Broncos and look to extend their undefeated season. Canberra return to the Nation's Capital, where they face the Parramatta Eels in a blockbuster home game next Saturday night.