By Nathan Beuman at Sportingbet Stadium
The Penrith Panthers will head into this weekend’s playoffs as clear Premiership favourites after a comprehensive 44-12 mauling of the Wentworthville Magpies at Sportingbet Stadium on Saturday.
Despite having already wrapped up the minor premiership with five rounds remaining in the home and away season, Penrith came out firing against a Magpies side that were looking to cement second position on the competition table.
A double from Penrith fullback Kieran Moss and a dominant outing by the rest of the Panthers backline saw the mountain men pick up their 16th victory from their last 17 starts.
Before the Wentworthville coaching staff had even had time to make their way to the coaches box, Penrith were in for their first points of the afternoon through winger Eto Nabuli.
Wes Naiqama was unable to convert the try, leaving the score at 4-0 barely three minutes into the game.
The Magpies hit back through Lionel O’Mally moments later, with the back rower using his strength to charge over next to the uprights, giving the visitors their first and only lead of the game after Luke Kelly’s conversion.
A Wentworthville error allowed Penrith to regain the lead in the 15th minute, when Leilani Latu made a break up the middle, before giving it off to Kieran Moss, who put the Panthers up 10-6 following Naiqama’s shot at goal was successful.
The Naiqama brothers continued to run riot out on the left edge, with Wes slicing through the Magpies line before passing to younger brother Kevin who went in under the posts to extend Penrith’s lead out to 16-6 lead after 17 minutes.
Moss went in for his second try eight minutes before the break, sending the Panthers into the sheds with a handy 22-6 lead.
Despite Kevin Naiqama failing to return in the second half, the Penrith backline continued to chew up the metres, scoring four tries in the space of 12 minutes after the break to end Wentworthville’s three game winning streak.
Penrith halfback Tom Humble showed his speed in the 50th minute, taking a quick tap before running 80 metres straight up the guts to put the score at 28-6 following Naiqama’s conversion.
Tries to Liam Ayoub and Sakeo Dibeci in quick succession had the Panthers out to a 38-6 lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Humble was in the thick of things again in the 61st minute, putting in a grubber kick that bounced up for Wes Naiqama, who picked the ball up and ran for the corner, getting the ball down in an acrobatic display.
Naiqama added the extras on his own try, extending Penrith’s lead to 44-6.
Wentworthville managed to score a late consolation try, with Vai Toutai popping up a pass for winger Cecil MacKenzie, pegging the margin back to 32 points after Kelly’s conversion was awarded.
The Wentworthville Magpies will open their finals campaign against the Newcastle Knights at Leichhardt Oval this Saturday at 12:40pm, while the Penrith Panthers will go up against the Illawarra Cutters at midday on Sunday at the same venue.
Penrith Panthers 44 (K Moss 2, W Naiqama, K Naiqama, T Humble, S Dibeci, L Ayoub, E Nabuli tries; W Naiqama 6 goals) def. Wentworthville Magpies 12 (C MacKenzie, L O’Mally tries; L Kelly 2 goals) at Sportingbet Stadium.