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Penrith have lived up to expectations by thrashing the New Zealand Warriors 40-6 in Redcliffe, running in seven tries in an easy victory.
Stephen Crichton made a strong case for inclusion in the NSW Blues starting team by topping the metre chart and laying on two tries for wing partner Brian To’o. With a spot vacated by the isolating Jack Wighton, the Panthers centre picked the perfect moment to return to form.
Blues coach Brad Fittler will have been happy to see several of his stars rested early, with Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo able to take early marks as the Panthers eased clear.
They might have gone earlier: Penrith somewhat played with their food and though the result wasn’t in doubt at any stage, the scoreline might have been even more one-sided had the attack fired.
The Warriors, playing their last game in Redcliffe before returning to New Zealand in two weeks, started the game with a 28.5 head start at the bookies and, for a long time, looked better than that suggested.
Interim coach Stacey Jones merely had the problems facing his team underlined: while they were able to compete at times and keep the Panthers out, they could never stay in the contest for long and some of the poor defensive reads and simple execution errors were well below first grade standard.
The predicted mauling of the Warriors did not seem likely early on. They tackled hard and were well in the game, throwing the Panthers off their stride – aided, in all likelihood, by a team that thought points might come more readily than they did.
Dylan Edwards thought he had opened the scoring, but the Bunker found a knock on in the build up, before Penrith did manage to get over via Moses Leota.
It was irritatingly easy for Stacey Jones: after all the Warriors’ great defence, it was as simple as Api Koroisau stepping out and putting Leota through a gaping hole.
The second was equally annoying. Again, the Kiwis showed fight – Jesse Arthars drilled Viliame Kikau with a superb tackle – but undermined themselves: an error allowed Edwards to get over from a simple inside line scrum play.
The underdogs fought on. Edwards had to bat a Reece Walsh kick dead to avoid a try, before the fullback saved another to deny Walsh when he hit an inside pass from debutant Ronald Volkman.
The Warriors had given Penrith a shake, and they responded as they generally do. They patiently built pressure, even with the clock running down on the half, with Taylan May able to skirt around two tacklers to score with seconds remaining.
The left had struck, and the right would follow. It was a simple backline move – well, simple if you’re Penrith – that ended up with the ball in the hands of Stephen Crichton. He might have scored himself, but opted to pass for Brian To’o.
After left and right, the next had to be right up the middle. It wasn’t a stellar moment for the Warriors defence, as first Chanel Harris-Tevita and then Walsh missed legs tackles on Yeo, allowing the lock to waltz through for another.
If that defending was poor, the next was even worse. Penrith were strolling into the Warriors end and managed to get Liam Martin up against Volkman, with the second row pushing straight through to score.
The Panthers had taken Yeo from the field – and well and truly put the cue in the rack – and the Warriors saw their chance to grab a consolation.
Reece Walsh, who never stopped trying, kicked a 40/20 that was closer to a 30/10 and from the next set, sent Josh Curran through for an unexpected try.
As if provoked, Penrith had to end the scoring themselves: Brian To’o, again the benefactor of Stephen Crichton, was the man to do it.