The Penrith Panthers remain undefeated in season 2022 with a resounding 32-12 win over the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs tonight at CommBank Stadium.
Penrith is the only side to remain undefeated this season but was pushed by the Bulldogs in a grudge match of sorts with several high profile Panthers joining Trent Barrett at Belmore in the off-season.
Penrith almost got off to a perfect start when Izack Tago appeared to continue his purple patch of form and cross for the opening try after the ball was batted back by Viliame Kikau and Nathan Cleary to allow Taylan May to get on the outside before passing to Tago, however, his foot touched the touchline and Penrith let the Dogs off the hook. Penrith didn't need to wait much longer when Canterbury's aggressive defence comes back to bite them. Jarome Luai threw a lovely cut-out ball to Taylan May who did a great job to get the football down and the premiers played from in front after Cleary's magnificent sideline conversion.
Canterbury's defence continued to let them down, their jamming defence again caused problems when Taylan May linked up with Tago who sprinted 60m before linking up with Dylan Edwards to cross for the premiers second try of the evening. With Cleary's conversion, Penrith had a handy 12-0 lead. Penrith was suffocating the Dogs in attack, but after a high shot from Corey Waddell, they respected the opposition and took the penalty goal to shoot to a three-possession lead.
Kyle Flanagan came into the match with a lot of question marks, but he put any doubt surrounding his selection to bed with some lovely defence causing Jarome Luai to lose the ball in a crunching tackle. In the ensuing set, Flanagan again put in a lovely kick which was spilt by Luai and Tevita Pangai Jr raced in to dive on the ball. That was Canterbury's first try since the first half of the Round 3 clash with Manly. Unfortunately, a mistake from Matt Dufty in the ensuing set gave the Panthers some field position and the premiers don't squander quality ball opportunities, some lovely ball playing from Cleary and Yeo allowed Liam Martin to hit the hole at speed and score adjacent to the uprights. With the conversion from Cleary, Penrith led 20-6 at half-time.
Penrith kicked off the second half as they ended the first, with a lovely play from hooker Api Koroisau setting up Spencer Leniu to crash over for his second try of the season and give the visitors a 20 point advantage. Canterbury got back in the game by shifting the ball early in the tackle count where Josh Addo-Carr FINALLY had the open space many thought he'd have this season. The Fox linked up with former Storm team-mate Joe Stimson and the Dogs looked to be making a late charge. However, elementary mistakes from Matt Dufty gave Penrith too much quality ball and Mitch Kenny crashed over for his maiden NRL try. No doubt the MKFC fanatics will be celebrating that one tonight. Villiame Kikau went close to scoring on full-time but was ruled to have bounced the ball leaving the score at 32-12 in favour of the premiers.
Canterbury at least has solved their halves conundrum, Kyle Flanagan looked solid tonight. Trent Barrett just needs to stick by his number 7 and against lesser opposition, the points will come. They showed some better signs in the red zone tonight and will be better for it in the long run. Their task doesn't get easier though, taking on Souths in their annual Good Friday fixture. Penrith also has a Good Friday encounter taking on a rejuvenated Broncos side who was a whisker away from upsetting the Roosters.