Penrith centre Brent Naden picked up where he left off in 2019 to score two tries and set up two more as the Panthers thumped Wests Tigers 32-4 Saturday night's trial match at Panthers Stadium.
The result delivered more questions than answers for both coaches ahead of round one with Tyrone May making a successful return for the Panthers and new Wests Tigers signing Adam Doueihi showing promising glimpses at fullback before succumbing to a quad injury.
A bleached-blonde May stepped onto the paddock for the first time in since 2018 after he was cleared to return from the NRL's 'no-fault stand down' policy last month.
May made an immediate impact three minutes into the second half when he stepped past Josh Reynolds to the line after replacing Jarome Luai before half-time.
Luai was given his marching orders by referee Ashley Klein when he and Wests Tigers centre Matheson Johns exchanged push and shove as pre-season rust kicked in for both teams with completion rates going out the window.
Sign up for a free NRL Account to access this video and other exclusive content.
Not sure? Learn more about NRL Account
The pair are battling for the five-eighth spot along with Matt Burton, who was solid in his first outing of the season, although May is not available for NRL selection until at least round five.
Burton tested the new 20/40 rule early with a kick falling a metre short from range but it was Luai who got the upper hand on a personal note when he delivered a quick pass to send Naden over for the first try of the evening.
A 4-4 scoreline at halftime did little to please the crowd of approximately 4000 but the Panthers ran in four tries in the second half with Naden proving too strong for rookie centre Tommy Talau on the left edge.
The Panthers lost fullback hopeful Caleb Aekins pre-game with the 23-year-old withdrawing due to the birth of his first child.
Aekins, who is in line to replace Dylan Edwards in round one, will be available for the side's final trial against Parramatta next week.
For the Tigers, Reynolds put in a typical busy performance, floating between five-eighth and hooker for most of the match in his first game since a difficult off-season of scandal and injury.
He was well supported by Billy Walters and Zane Musgrove, who also put their hands up in the loss, while Doueihi lasted 45 minutes in his first hit-out for the club before leaving the field and going up the tunnel in the only concern for Michael Maguire.
Doueihi was safe but limited in opportunities but managed to lay on a floating pass for the joint venture's only try of the night to Reece Hoffman early, despite replays suggesting the ball was lost in the attempted put-down.
New recruit Luciano Leilua sported a trimmed down look to churn in around 60 minutes on the right edge, while Elijah Taylor was solid in defence before being sent to the sin-bin for a professional foul.