A depleted Penrith Panthers outfit continues to show why they are the team to beat making an empathic statement to the rest of the NSW Cup finalists destroying the 4th placed Cutters 42-6 with a clinical display at Leichhardt Oval to advance through to the preliminary final & the luxury of the week off.
Coming into this match it was 1 v 2 in terms of defence & the Cutters had given Penrith two of its toughest wins earlier this year but poor ball handling cost them any chance of being able to apply any pressure on a Panthers side that looks more composed in attack & more switched on in defence since their shock come-from-behind loss to the Jets six weeks earlier. The 42 points scored means the Panthers have scored just under 800 points for the season to date whilst in their last six outings, their wins have been built on a stone-wall defence that has conceded just 56 points in the process.
The Panthers welcomed back Kierran Moseley fresh from his encouraging NRL debut vs Manly a week earlier along with Tom Eisenhuth while the Cutters suffered a blow with Jake Stockwell a noted withdrawal from the named side.
The Panthers opened proceedings in the 7th minute with Tom Humble taking on a pass 1 out & storming thru would-be defenders to score from close range to open up a 6 nil lead, which was increased seven minutes when Kevin Naiqama provided a deft round the corner pass to put Eto Nabuli in a tight run along the left touchline to score from close range.
The Cutters suffered a huge setback when experienced back-rower Nathan Green was forced out of the game with a lower leg injury after only 25 minutes.
The Panthers were soon on the board again in the 32nd minute when Tom Humble grubbered behind the line for Waqa Blake to pounce on the loose ball in goal to score out wide & with Wes Naiqama’s conversion the Panthers led 16-0.
Tom Humble again turned provider as his swirling cross field kick from just inside the Cutters half was allowed to bounce by Adam Quinlan & pounced upon by Luke Capewell to score under the posts with the final play of the half to give Penrith a commanding 22-0 lead at halftime.
Penrith continued where they left off in the second half to score again in the 47th minute with Eto Nabuli grabbing a double courtesy of a Capewell offload after play spread left close to the Cutters line to go 26 points ahead.
Tom Humble bagged his second try midway throught he second half in another individual effort close to the try line & was instrumental in the Panthers extending the lead to 36 when his offload on the last tackle 40m out from the Cutters line allowed Tom Eisenhuth to place a chip kick for Wes Naiqama to regather before going inside to Waqa Blake who kicked ahead & was first to the ball inches before it rolled over the in-goal touchline much to the dismay of the Cutters.
The 36-0 lead allowed the Panthers to rest several players resting niggling injuries such as Kevin Naiqama & Ryan Simpkins in the closing minutes but they weren’t done with yet as Tom Humble bagged a hat-trick after intercepting a Quinlan pass & going 80 metres to score under the posts to give Penrith a 42-0 lead.
The Panthers held that lead until the final play of the game when Adam quinlan strolled over from close range to get the Cutters on the board but the minor premiers ran out convincing winners 42-6.
The Panthers now have the week off before awaiting the outcome of the minor semi-final to be played between Wentworthville Magpies & the giant killing Wyong Roos, to be played Sunday fortnight at Leichhardt Oval.
Penrith 42 (Tries: T Humble 3, E Nabuli 2, Blake 2, Capewell W Naiqama Goals: W Naiqama 5/8 goals) def. Illawarra 6 (Try: A Quinlan Goal: S Duggan 1/1) at Leichhardt Oval.