There was only one possible winner as top took on bottom with the all-conquering Penrith Panthers taking on the struggling basement dwelling Canterbury Bulldogs at the Bluebet Stadium in Penrith.
The Bulldogs have just one win all season while the Panthers haven’t lost a single game in 2021 in a winning streak which has seen them dominate all before them, running in an average of over thirty points a game while conceding an average of less than ten.
Trent Barrett knew that it would take something extra special for his side to get anything from the game and all week he must have been planning simply on how to mitigate the damage from Ivan Cleary’s sensational side.
After conceding two penalties for high tackles, the Bulldogs defence was the first to open on four minutes when Charlie Staines found plenty of space down the right side to go in from ten metres. Nathan Cleary was unable to add the conversion from the touchline, but the rout appeared to have started.
But rather than capitulate, the Bulldogs doubled down and put up a strong defence as the game developed into a real encounter. You could see the self-belief growing amongst the visitors as their game plan panned out.
Canterbury had their chances but couldn’t make it over the whitewash, and inside the last minute of the half Spencer Leniu was on hand to catch a reckless Dallin Watene-Zelezniak offload and go in from twenty for the try. Cleary added the conversion for a 10-0 half time lead.
It took fifteen minutes of the second half for Penrith to register their first try as Staines was again on hand to take a Paul Momirovski fast pass and go over untouched, again by the right corner flag. Cleary hit the left upright with his kick, Penrith 14-0 ahead.
Just after the hour mark Momirovski collected a Stephen Crichton grubber kick to score from two metres out as Penrith edged towards victory after a tougher than expected encounter. Cleary was able to convert for a 20-0 lead.
It was 24-0 when Matt Burton was the last in line after a passing move from right to left to go over unopposed. Cleary smacked the extras between the uprights as the score line started to look much more convincing.
An amazing Penrith try was the icing on the cake. A rolling move over ninety-five metres involved Burton, To’o and Crichton with the full back being the one to take the final pass and go over in the corner. Crichton took over the kicking duties but was unable to add the goal from wide.
Moses Leota was sin-binned for a tackle to the head on seventy-seven but it mattered for little in the context of the game. Aaron Schoupp finally found some space to go over for Canterbury to avoid a nilling but with just fifty seconds left on the clock. All that remained was time for Nick Meaney to miss the conversion for a final scoreline of 30-4.
Despite a monumental effort for the first hour, Canterbury were unable to get over the Penrith line as the Panthers cruised, and sometimes walked, to a decent enough win. A late consolation avoided the zero against their name, but it was scant recognition for their efforts. There was plenty of frustration for the home side against a motivated and aggressive defence, but they eventually ground their opponents down.
Penrith Panthers: Crichton (T), Staines (2T), Burton (T), Momirovski (T), To’o, Luai, Cleary (3G), Fisher-Harris, Koroisau, Leota (SB on 77), Kikau, Martin, Yeo. Subs: May, Sorensen, Eisenhuth, Leniu (T). 18th: Tago.
Canterbury Bulldogs: Watene-Zelezniak, Cotric, Hopoate, Schoupp (T), Meaney, Wakeham, Averillo, Hetherington, Deitz, Thompson, Elliott, Doorey, Jackson. Subs: Topine, Stimson, Seumanufagai. 18th: Waddell.
Referee: Matt Noyen.
Score Progression: 4-0, 8-0, 10-0: HT : 14-0, 18-0, 20-0, 24-0, 26-0, 30-0, 30-4 : FT.