Penrith has continued their winning streak, defeating a resurgent Bulldogs side by 30-18 at Bluebet Stadium tonight to remain four points clear at the top of the NRL ladder.
Despite missing their Origin contingent, their premiership winning stars in Viliame Kikau and Dylan Edwards led the side to a well-deserved win, with Kikau simply devastating against his future club.
Former Panther Matt Burton was also outstanding in a losing side, as he put the cellar dwellers on his back and almost single handily dragged Canterbury back to the brink of causing a massive boilover.
However, with the game in the balance with fifteen minutes remaining, Canterbury simply shot themselves in the foot with a catastrophic error from prop Paul Vaughan inside his own half, followed by some woeful discipline costing Mick Potter's side any chance of an unlikely victory.
The Panthers came into the game missing six Origin stars, while the Bulldogs were desperately looking to snap four match losing streak despite missing two of their own stars in Tevita Pangai Jr and English prop Luke Thompson.
It was rookie Panther Kurt Falls who stepped into the Panthers system seamlessly early, when he placed a perfect kick for former Bulldog Chris Smith, who snatched the ball away from the Bulldogs defence to score the first try of the night.
Penrith had the home crowd on their feet minutes later when Kikau put Izack Tago away down the left hand side. Tago then found his fullback Dylan Edwards in support to score his fourth try of the year. Debutant Falls then converted from the sideline to make it 12-0 after just fifteen minutes.
Canterbury needed something special to get them in the game and they got it through Matt Burton, who put up a towering bomb, which was spilt by Dylan Edwards. Off the next set, it was the former Panther with a deft grubber for Josh Addo-Carr to score and the former Blues winger was extremely pleased after a tough week after being dropped from the NSW Origin side. Burton then converted from the sideline to narrow Penrith's lead to 12-6.
A confident Dogs outfit then chanced their arm in attack through Addo-Carr and new fullback Jake Averillo, however Penrith got the ball back following a desperate pass from Averillo which put his side under enormous pressure. Off the ensuing play, second string halfback Sean O'Sullivan produced a delightful floating pass over the top for his winger Taylan May. The rookie winger then added to his 2022 highlight reel when he produced a spectacular leap to plant the ball down and extend his sides advantage to 16-6 on the scoreboard.
Penrith doubled down in quick succession when they again charged up field which saw Viliame Kikau power through some would be Bulldogs defenders to score and give his side a commanding 22-6 lead at halftime.
The Bulldogs needed to strike first after the break and they did so through Matt Burton who put his side back in the match with a chip over the top for a flying Josh Addo-Carr who raced sixty metres to score his second try of the night.
Burton then celebrated his homecoming to Penrith when he silenced the crowd after charging onto a flat ball from Jeremy Marshall-King close to the line to score and narrow the score to 22-18 with twenty minutes left in the game.
With the game in the balance and after Canterbury completed at 93%, prop Paul Vaughan then produced an astonishing error trying to offload in his own half. Blues back up hooker Apisai Koroisau made the Dogs pay for the error with a grubber out of dummy half for Jaeman Salmon to score.
Canterbury then threw their discipline out the window, when backrower Corey Waddell was penalised for a lazy high tackle and then halfback Kyle Flanagan decided to try and dump Kikau on his back by lifting between the legs. Kurt Falls collected the gift two points on offer and the Panthers iced the game at 30-18.
Penrith will turn to State of Origin and hope for minimal disruption prior to their trip to Newcastle next Sunday as they look to consolidate first position on the ladder.
Canterbury now face their bitter rivals Parramatta on the Queens Birthday holiday next Monday.