Full Time
6:00pm Fri March 31, 2023
Round 5 - GIO Stadium Canberra, Bruce / Ngunnawal - Crowd: 15334

Match Overview

It has taken them a while to get going but the Penrith Panthers sounded a premiership warning on Friday, running over the top of the Canberra Raiders 53-12 at GIO Stadium.

The Raiders were well and truly in the contest at halftime, trailing 13-6, but fell away in the second period as the Panthers ran in seven tries.

Halfback Nathan Cleary had a hand in pretty much everything while Izack Tago and Sunia Turuva combined for four tries in an electric display on Penrith's left edge.

There was drama early in Friday night's game as Penrith was placed under immediate pressure after Cleary had his first kick of the game charged down by Zac Woolford.

It gifted Canberra a full set on Penrith's line and with a chance to set the tone early but, as would become a theme throughout the first half, the Raiders barely threatened in the red zone.

It was actually off a scrum near halfway that Canberra had its first genuine try-scoring opportunity, with Seb Kris finding a hole after poor defence from Stephen Crichton.

He then tried to find speedster Albert Hopoate in support but the winger put the ball down, with the Panthers surviving a close call.

It proved a crucial missed opportunity as Cleary, unfazed by the charge down, went back to the boot minutes later and this time his kick sat up perfectly for centre Tago.

Tago then found winger Turuva in support for the opening try of the game, with Cleary then adding the extras to make it 6-0 after seven minutes.

The execution wasn't always perfect for the defending premiers though and some physicality from Canberra saw the home side repel Penrith after multiple sets defending its own line.

In fact, the Panthers' second try of the night came in unconventional fashion - going through 10 sets of hands before Turuva put in a grubber and pounced to push the lead out to 12-0.

There was some adversity to come for Penrith though as repeated infringements saw Crichton binned after the centre was penalised for being offside off a scrum.

Again, Canberra's attack inside Penrith's 20-metre zone left a lot to be desired but a smart kick from Woolford brought points as Elliott Whitehead dived on the ball to score.

The Raiders almost made it two tries in a row as they went back to the left edge, with Hopoate burning the Panthers with his pace and kicking inside.

Halfback Jamal Fogarty was chasing in support and had possession of the ball, only to lose it in a desperate tackle from Tago.

In the end despite threatening late the Raiders would head into halftime with just the one try while a late Cleary field goal pushed Penrith's lead out to 13-6.

The Panthers were gifted an immediate chance to extend that lead when Jordan Rapana was unable to defuse the kick-off.

But as has been the case through the opening round of the season, Penrith was a shadow of its clinical former self as Tago dropped the ball.

Tago would make up for it soon after though.

A penalty saw the Panthers march up the field and then go back to the left edge, with Cleary putting Scott Sorensen through a hole as Tago backed up in support.

It was a quick double for Tago as a series of sets inside Canberra's red zone eventually told, with the Raiders' right edge opening up with ease for the Panthers centre to surge through.

Cleary missed his first conversion of the night, leaving the score at 23-6 after 50 minutes.

Suddenly the floodgates opened as the Panthers went back-to-back, riding the momentum of a charging run from Brian To'o to kick off the set after points.

Raiders fullback Kris then bizarrely watched on as Lindsay Smith chased through to take possession and offload for Cleary to score.

Canberra needed something fast and found it in the form of an uncharacteristic error from Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards, who failed to defuse a Hudson Young kick.

Young himself was then on the spot to pick up the ball and score, giving the Raiders a glimmer of hope heading into the final 20 minutes.

That hope quickly faded though when Rapana handed possession right back to Penrith off the restart and Edwards made up for his error as he put Zac Hosking over for a try.

Tyrone Peachey then celebrated his Penrith return with a try in his first game for the club since 2018, embarrassing some meek Canberra defence in the 72nd minute.

Some silky skills from Crichton and a storming run by Jaeman Salmon saw the Panthers score two more before fulltime as the visitors brought up the half-century in an emphatic win.

The Panthers host the Sea Eagles next week while the Raiders travel to Brisbane.

3. Nathan Cleary

A perfect kicking game - outside of that first charge down - and picked his time to take on the line while also using his ball-playing to constantly test the Canberra defence.

2. Izack Tago

A real X-factor on the left edge with two tries, three linebreaks and over 100 metres.

1. Moses Leota

With James Fisher-Harris picking up a knee issue, Leota stepped up when the Panthers needed him and led the way up front with 160 run metres. Lindsay Smith and Spencer Leniu also deserve credit for big stints off the bench.