By Jamie Anderson at Leichhardt Oval
The Penrith Panthers reinforced their status as the team to beat in this year’s VB NSW Cup, disposing of the Illawarra Cutters 42-6 at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
Despite missing a number of key players to injury and NRL commitments, the Panthers were never troubled as they completely outclassed their opposition running in eight tries to one in a display that has many wondering just who can stop the Panthers in 2014?
The Panthers started like a house on fire and set the tone early on when after a series of kicks, Waqa Blake smashed Kyle Eather in goal to force a line dropout.
From the ensuing set Tom Humble crossed the stripe for what would be the first of three tries on the day for the halfback.
And from that point on the tries began to come thick and fast for the men from the foot of the mountains.
Prolific try scorer Eto Nabuli grabbed his first in the 13th minute and then Waqa Blake got in on the action following a nice little kick by Moseley.
The Cutters were having difficulties getting a foothold in the match and things got even harder when Nathan Green left the match midway through the first half with what looked like a nasty lower leg injury.
But at 16-0 and running into the breeze, the Cutters were still in the contest somewhat, but another try to the Panther right on half time cruelled their hopes as a towering kick was allowed to bounce at the back by Illawarra and Luke Capewell found himself in the right place at the right time to extend the Panthers lead to 22 points.
It was more of the same in the second forty with both Blake and Nabuli touching down for their respective doubles while Tommy Humble grabbed two more tries, including an 80 metre intercept try late in the piece.
It appeared that the Cutters would be shut out for the match but they did manage to cross the stripe in the 80th minute when Adam Quinlan found space a few passes off the ruck and crossed for a late consolation try.
As a result the Panthers have earned this week off and will await the winner of the Wyong and Wenty match while the Cutters will get a second chance when they tackle the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday at 6pm.
Penrith Panthers 42 (T Humble 3, E Nabuli 2, W Blake 2, L Capewell tries; W Naiqama 5 goals) def. Illawarra Cutters 6 (A Quinlan try; S Duggan goal) at Leichhardt Oval.