By John Chammas
Defending Premiers, Penrith Panthers, have maintained their unbeaten start to 2015, claiming a convincing 38-6 victory over a second-rate North Sydney Bears outfit at Carrington Park on Saturday afternoon.
The seven-try-to-one romp has the Panthers atop the ladder, winning two matches in as many starts to begin their title defence.
Despite conceding first points, the Panthers were rarely tested, as Isaac John starred, steering his side to victory with a man-of-the-match performance in front of a healthy crowd in Bathurst.
Bears lock-forward Cheyne Whitelaw opened his side’s account just five minutes into the match after latching on to an inside ball on a lateral run to score beside the posts.
However, that would be all they celebrated as the Panthers showed their class in both attack and defence. Their efforts in defence ultimately paid off when they forced a dropped ball out of Norths forward Scott Sorensen in good field position.
From the ensuing set the Panthers went wide through the hands and found a flying Eddie Aiono, who polished off a slick backline move.
Penrith then went back-to-back through a rampaging Leilani Latu, who crashed his way over the line to score from close range and take the lead.
Approaching half time, Panthers five-eighth John showed off his fancy footwork, dancing his way through the Bears’ defensive line to extend his side’s lead to 10 points heading into the break.
Having conceded 20 points in their last start, the Panthers produced a resilient second-half performance, keeping the Bears at bay as they ran in four more tries.
Young Penrith prospect Waqa Blake provided the first highlight of the second half when he muscled his way over in the corner to all but end any chance of a Bears comeback.
John then produced a neat cut-out pass to find winger Christian Crichton, who crossed in the corner, before Apisai Koroisau tormented his former side, finishing off a 70-metre movement that went through a number of Panthers hands to score under the sticks.
On the stroke of full time, Blake bagged a double to put the icing on the cake.
PENRITH PANTHERS 38 (Waqa Blake 2, Eddie Aiono, Leilani Latu, Isaac John, Christian Crichton, Apisai Koroisau tries; Koroisau 5 goals) d. NORTH SYDNEY BEARS 6 (Cheyne Whitelaw try; Nikko Roberts 1 goal). Referee: Jeff Hartup. Touch Judges: Phillip Sung, Rohan Best. Goal-kickers: Apisai Koroisau (Penrith) 5 from 7, Nikko Roberts (North Sydney) 1 from 1