Penrith Panthers moved level on points with St George Illawarra Dragons at the top of the NRL ladder after a convincing 28-2 victory today at Panthers Stadium.
The stars of the show for the Panthers were NSW Origin hopefuls Nathan Cleary and James Maloney, who were a smart halfback combination throughout, while opposite number Ben Hunt, a Queensland hopeful, suffered a corked thigh in the first half and was eventually withdrawn after trying to play on for five minutes in the second half.
The Panthers led 8-0 at half-time thanks to an early penalty from Maloney and a brilliant individual converted try from Cleary.
Although the Dragons reduced the deficit to six point when Gareth Widdop kicked an early second-half penalty, the Panthers kept their foot on the gas, scoring three more tries through Christian Crichton, Viliame Kikau and a late touchdown by Reagan Campbell-Gillard, in a display that will have given watching Blues coach Brad Fittler plenty to ponder on his Origin selections.
Panthers: 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Christian Crichton, 3 Tyrone Peachey, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Tyrone Phillips, 6 James Maloney (c), 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 Trent Merrin, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Corey Harawira-Naera, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris; Interchange: 14 Wayde Egan, 15 Jack Hetherington, 16 Viliame Kikau, 17 James Tamou
Tries: Cleary, Crichton, Kikau, Campbell-Gillard; Goals: Maloney 6
Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Euan Aitken, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jason Nightingale, 6 Gareth Widdop (c), 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Paul Vaughan, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack De Belin; Interchange: 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Leeson Ah Mau, 17 Blake Lawrie
Full match reports of all this weekend’s NRL games will feature in Monday’s League Express.