The illustrious move of Matt Moylan to the halves, return of experienced winger Josh Mansour and club-debut of exiled hooker Mitch Rein has helped the Panthers claim a 38-point shutout win over the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
Penrith have reinvented themselves as a club in the last half-a-decade or so, with a professionalism now oozing from their talented roster, multi-million-dollar academy and streamlined set-up of home-grown players.
But after a scratchy first 12-rounds of the NRL season, many had wondered why the results hadn’t transferred from their break-out season of 2016.
On Sunday afternoon, they showed they type of side they can be – determined, hard-edged, clinical and versatile.
Tactical changes by Coach Anthony Griffin before the game meant skipper Matt Moylan finally started in the no. 6 jumper for the first time in his NRL career and he was pivotal in playing a steady-hand in his side’s win, yet able to maintain all of his finesse.
Boosted by the return of evergreen Australian representative Josh Mansour, the Panthers got a jump on the Bulldogs from the get-go.
From the opening set it was evident Penrith were at ANZ Stadium to prove something. Perhaps to themselves.
After being out-classed in the opening periods of their last few games, Penrith’s start was full of purposeful intent, with their line speed and kick-chase outstanding.
Following two-repeat sets, Corey Harawira-Naera ensured they made use of the sustained early pressure, strolling past Moses Mbye to score the first try of the day after just four minutes.
The Bulldogs struggled to maintain the Panthers’ intensity and not even a couple of relieving penalties could help them, with five errors leaving them with just a 50-percent completion rate midway through the first half.
A devastating run from Josh Mansour through the middle of the field helped Penrith obtain their second try, with club-debutant Mitch Rein later crossing from dummy-half in the 22nd minute. Cleary added the extra points to seal a 10-nil lead.
A brilliant link-up by Panthers forward’s Leilani Latu and Isaah Yeo on the left edge, put Matt Moylan across in the 29th minute, resulting in a 14-0 lead after Cleary missed the conversion.
While Canterbury supporters could lay claim to the absence of regulars James Graham, Josh Reynolds and Brett Morris for their struggle, the day was all about Penrith.
Waqa Blake was gifted a try from his inside back-rower Isaah Yeo in the 52ndminute and once Cleary had converted, Canterbury’s day only got worse after they kicked out on the full form the restart.
While Penrith couldn’t capitalise straight away, in the 64th minute a deft grubber-kick from an in-field running Josh Mansour allowed Nathan Cleary to pounce on the rolling ball. From in front of the sticks, Cleary converted his own try to send Penrith out to a 26-0 lead.
Minutes later, Mitch Rein nabbed his second-try for the day, guaranteeing there will be plenty of conversation midweek about his place in the side as part and parcel of a brilliant return performance.
Josh Mansour capped off Penrith’s return to form with a typical acrobatic try in the 79th minute, making his comeback from a long injury lay-off, all the more sweeter.
In what could only be described as a dreadful afternoon for Canterbury-Bankstown who will be licking their wounds after four losses on-the-trot, Penrith now look ever the daring and dangerous side of last season.
With no players currently in the State of Origin sides, Penrith could well dominate the middle-third of the season.
They’ll head to Carrington Park next week for their home-game clash with Canberra and then enjoy a bye.