Penrith have extended their long home-ground winning run with a convincing 36-6 win over a Raiders side that defended stoutly for long stretches but still ended up on the wrong side of a big score.
Things looked to be going to script for Penrith early with centre Stephen Crichton slicing over in the 14th minute after the home side earned a repeat set in attacking range.
However an error from the kick-off handed the Raiders a golden chance to attack with Joe Tapine showing plenty of strength to power over through the middle to level up.
Some nice ball-playing from debutant Soni Luke set up Isaah Yeo in the 33rd minute while a Nathan Cleary penalty goal in the 37th paid credit to the Raiders' defensive efforts to make it 14-0 at the break.
Crichton spins and slides to score his second
The Raiders had to do a mountain of tackling early in the second stanza but it took 16 minutes for Penrith to make it count with Crichton sliding in for his second.
The centre had a hat-trick soon after, awarded a penalty try as his arm was grabbed by Xavier Savage on a chase to a Nathan Cleary try.
The scoreline got away from the Raiders as Izack Tago set up Taylan May in the 67th minute for his eighth try of the year and Kikau crashed over in the 73rd.
Match: Panthers v Raiders
Round 7 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
- Canberra brought a much-missed physicality to the early exchanges, rattling Penrith with some huge charges and tackles through the middle.
- The tide turned with a pair of line drops outs forced by Penrith either side of the half-hour mark, helping the home side to a 55% possession rate for the first half and sapping the Raiders defence.
Kikau twists and turns to put the footy down
- Soni Luke became Panther number 607 when he ran onto the field around 10 minutes before half time and the joy on Api Koroisau's face as he was substituted tells you all you need to know about the team's happiness for Luke's achievement. The 26-year-old set up a try for Isaah Yeo just minutes later to really get the celebrations happening.
- The Raiders had a debutant of their own with Englishman Harry Rushton earning his first NRL start. His side were squashed inside their own end for the entirety of the time he was on the field but the 20-year-old looked at home in the top grade, soaking up some big collisions with 16 tackles made in his 21 minutes on field.
- Taylan May joined Ryan Papenhuyzen atop the season try-scoring list with his eighth four-pointer in just his fifth game of the year.
- The scoreline probably wasn't a true reflection of the effort Canberra put into defence, going through sustained periods on their own try-line without conceding to the NRL's best side but a flurry of tries in the final quarter blew the score out.
- A 77th minute high tackle penalty against Jaemon Salmon helped the Raiders to their first possession inside Penrith territory since the 26th minute in a mark of just how much Penrith dominated the field position battle.
- Penrith finished with 60% of possession and outran Canberra by a whopping 1751 metres to 747, making six line breaks to one.
- Penrith's home ground winning streak has extended to 21 games, with their most recent loss coming against the Raiders in 2019.
Play of the game
With the scores level at 6-6 in the eighth minute, Soni Luke danced out of dummy half and held up a perfect pass to help Isaah Yeo cross completely untouched to announce himself in first grade.
Yeo darts through for a try
What they said
"It's a good feeling, everyone trusts each other and that's a big part in how we play, particularly how we defend. We were finding our groove in the first half but I felt in the second half when we had them pinned down their end a lot of teams give away penalties but I thought the way we were diligent was the most pleasing part." Panthers co-captain Isaah Yeo.
"It's pretty unique, I don't think we had a play the ball in their half during the second half. We were on the back of a 9-1 penalty count and forever defending so it wouldn't have only been Penrith who would've beaten us by that amount, other teams would've when you're not getting a play the ball in the opposition's half." - Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
Cleary defends Panthers Viking Clap
The Panthers have a quick five-day turnaround into Friday night's trip up to the Gold Coast to take on a Titans side stinging from a massive loss to the Cowboys in round seven.
The Raiders also venture up to south-east Queensland to face the Warriors at Redcliffe on Saturday afternoon; with the Warriors sitting just outside the top eight on differential and Canberra just one win behind them there is plenty of incentive to play well for each team.