Can the Panthers go all the way?
The Penrith Panthers continued to enhance their case to be considered as real premiership contenders this season with a ruthless 40-0 victory over the Newcastle Knights. Coming off the back of a brave 12-14 defeat to the Sydney Roosters, the Panthers proved their title credentials by running in seven tries and keeping a clean sheet in a performance that will send a message to the rest of the NRL. In a game that produced a number of very promising signs, the Panthers were able to keep an opponent tryless for the second time this season in just four games.
One of the most notable performances came from five-eighth Te Maire Martin, who produced his best showing since making his return from a serious shoulder injury. The 21-year old missed a huge chunk of the 2016 campaign with the problem after a promising start to his Penrith career. Now fully fit again, Martin showed just what the Panthers missed last season, scoring one try and creating two more in a stand-out performance to help his team climb up to fourth in the ladder.
In front of a season-best crowd, Penrith completely dominated much of the game, heaping misery on a Knights team that look set for a long year. While Newcastle were able to keep the Panthers offense relatively quiet during the first 20 minutes, three tries in ten minutes, including one from rookie Corey Harawira-Naera, saw Anthony Griffin’s men take control of the tie and kill off any hope Newcastle had of getting anything out of the game. In a near-perfect display, Penrith were able to show off all their strengths and prove they are real players this year and not an outfit to underestimate.
As well as Martin, veteran Peter Wallace also put in an excellent performance at dummy half, showing there is still plenty of life left in the 31-year old. The experienced former Scotland international was instrumental in much of what the Panthers did, although that could be said for a number of players in the Penrith team. While the offensive display was impressive, the way in which the defense nullified anything the Knights tried was something that won’t have gone unnoticed by the other premiership contenders. Currently priced at around 6/1 with bet365 to go all the way this year, Penrith fans are rightfully feeling excited about the season.
We might still be in the very infancy of the new NRL campaign but the early signs are extremely encouraging. Not only are the Panthers main men stepping up to the plate, the squad has shown that there are options in almost every position: something that will be key to the club dealing with a long, grueling season. With the likes of Roosters and Melbourne Storm being tipped by many to be the two teams that reach the Grand Final, Griffin and his men may be able to somewhat slip under the radar. That said, the way in which the club took apart the Knights will have certainly caught the attention of those other teams in the title race.