Classy Panthers too good for Tigers
Panthers Bryce Cartwright and Waqa Blake turned on the style to help their side thrash Wests Tigers 23-7 at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
The scoring started with a perfect right-arm offload from Cartwright which sent Dallin Watene-Zelezniak racing down the sideline to score.
With Tigers skipper Chris Lawrence off early to get his hip iced the Panthers forced a drop out and more beautiful work from Cartwright with an over-the-shoulder pass put Blake over for his first.
Josh Mansour then steamrolled over for to give Penrith a 12-0 half-time lead.
Tigers youngster Tyler Cassel joined his skipper on the sidelines when he went low in a tackle and was concussed early in the second half before Blake cashed in on a simple overlap for his second.
A stunning solo effort from Tim Simona, who chipped ahead for himself twice, finally got Wests on the board with a seven-point try under the posts.
But the red-hot Cartwright jinked down the right touch line then kicked ahead for Blake to bring up his hat-trick on full-time with a seven-point try of his own and seal a 23-7 win.
Cartwright said his strong performance came after his first full NRL pre-season.
"I'm just happy to be back throwing the ball around. I've never played at the Nines, and I've watched it both years prior, and I wanted to be out there so much so it's definitely paid off," Cartwright told NRL.com.
"[The pre-season has] helped out so much already even at the start of the year, I feel so much better."
Lawrence allayed any fears over his long term health after leaving the field early with a hip complaint, although he was ruled out of the Tigers' second game of the day.
"I just got kneed in the hip when I was diving for the ball. I went off to get some heat on it but they told me to ice it up and stay off," he said. "I've just corked the hip pointer so it's nothing serious."
Penrith Panthers 23 (Blake 3, Watene-Zelezniak, Mansour tries) def Wests Tigers 7 (Simona try)