Penrith have continued on their winning ways, notching up their fifth win in a row to consolidate third spot in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW after a resounding 48-6 win over Western Sydney rivals the Wests Tigers at St Marys Stadium.
The game was a good as over at half-time when Penrith capitalised on an ill-disciplined Tigers outfit to score 30 unanswered points, led by the Panthers Fijian connection Maika Sivo and Bill Kikau - who scored five tries between them, with two of Sivo’s tries coming from the work of his unstoppable Fijian international teammate.
The win also continues the Panthers recent dominance over the Tigers, having defeated their Western Sydney rivals 52-12 victory back in Round 2, despite losing key playmaker Tyrone May to an NRL debut on Friday night.
Penrith withstood some early pressure from the Tigers to score first in the 12th minute through a show-and-go effort from hooker Wayde Egan, who scored his fourth try in his last four games at this level.
The try came on the back of some concerted pressure from the Panthers who benefitted from four consecutive sets inside the Tigers 20m zone, which included an incident that saw Tigers skipper Nathan Milone placed on report by referee Keiron Irons for a dangerous throw on Luai.
Two sets later and the home side was in again to double their lead when a shift left ended with a magical cut-out pass from Bill Kikau put Sivo over in the south-east corner.
The Tigers continued to be their own worst enemy, conceding numerous penalties culminating in the sin-binning of centre Luke Garner for dissent, which invited the Panthers to push the lead out to 30-0 at the main-beak after scoring a further three converted tries.
The first of those tries came when Kikau proved to be too strong for the Tigers goal-line defence, scoring from close range after 25 minutes.
The back-rower soon had a double on the half-hour mark after Luai put him in the clear to score from 40 metres out, dragging the cover defence along for the ride in the process, before Garner’s enforced absence in the closing minutes of the half compounded matters for the Tigers when Egan and Nicholls combined to put Ellis over to give Penrith that imposing 30-0 lead.
The Tigers, as they did early in the first half, came out with plenty of purpose and attacked the Panthers tryline at will in the opening five minutes, but the competition’s best defence not only repelled their best efforts but returned serve when back-to-back penalties saw Crichton finish off a another slick last-tackle backline movement to score out wide in the 47th minute.
The Panthers soon reached the 40-point mark midway through the second half when Nicholls’ crossfield kick was plucked out of the air by Corey Waddell to score left of the posts.
Sivo was in again soon after being the beneficiary of the lead-up work from Kikau who provided a brilliant offload despite attracting attention from three would-be defenders on their own tryline, as the Panthers pushed to replicate a 50-point-plus score for the second week in a row.
A tough afternoon for the visitors eased somewhat when prop Jordan Grant took advantage of an attacking penalty inside Penrith’s 20-metre zone to slam the ball down over the line that saw Penrith’s defensive line breached for the first time in over 160 minutes of Rugby League, with 10 minutes left on the clock.
But the Panthers weren’t to be denied once last score for the afternoon when Sivo, dubbed by some as the 'NRL’s next Semi Radradra,' completed his first hat-trick at this level when he finished off another slick backline movement to score in the corner to bring his side to within two points of another 50 point score-line.
The win ensures the Panthers end the round three points clear in third place - and within two of points of the second-placed Warriors as they look to next Saturday when they host Illawarra at Pepper Stadium.
Conversely, the Tigers will be looking to regroup quickly when they head to Ringrose Park to take on the Wentworthville Magpies next Sunday.
Penrith Panthers 48 (M Sivo 3, V Kikau 2, W Egan, K Ellis, C Crichton, C Waddell tries; D Nicholls 6 goals) def Wests Tigers 6 (J Grant try; B Sironen goal)