The Intrust Super Premiership winners Penrith Panthers upheld NSW pride by convincingly defeating their Queensland counterparts PNG Hunters 42-18 in the NRL State Championship at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Penrith were simply too big, too quick, and too slick for the PNG Hunters; the Panthers scored seven tries to none in the first half and took an incredible 38-2 lead to the break.
The PNG Hunters were more competitive in the second half and showed great spirit, they ended up winning the second 40 minutes with three late tries, but the damage was done.
It was a deserved NRL State Championship for Penrith, they were simply sensational for most of the game; they made it two big wins in a row for NSW sides over the Queenslanders and levelled the NRL State Championship at 2-2 since its inception in 2014.
TONY SATINI GRABS FOUR FIRST HALF TRIES
Penrith were simply far too fast and strong for the Hunters in the first half, and a lot of that damage was done by the Panthers’ left side attack; centre Tony Satini was the benefactor, scoring four first half tries, including the first three in seven minutes.
The first of his four tries arrived in the 8th minute, and it happened all too easily down the left side for Penrith, an early worrying sign for the Hunters. The worry became an alarm as Satini scored with the next set from the kick off after a strong run and offload from Penrith winger Christian Crichton.
Satini’s third try came four minutes later after another strong run from Viliame Kikau up the middle, and the centre was in the right place at the right time when the perfect offload popped up.
His fourth effectively killed off the game as a contest; it was just before the half time siren after the Panthers spread the ball left, with Satini crashing over for his fourth try.
In between halfback Darren Nicholls scored in the 20th minute, sucking in the Hunters with a big dummy and strolled over from 10 metres in the centre of the field. Viliame Kikau scored in the 30th minute after providing for Satini earlier, and Christian Crichton crossed three minutes before the break after the Hunters winger failed to catch a cross-field kick due to losing the ball into the sun.
The Penrith centre was not just on the receiving end of some good play but was a handful for the Hunters with every hit up. The search for a fifth try in the second half possibly cost the Panthers a few more points.
VILIAME KIKAU’D ARSE
The Panthers’ big number 11 was immense throughout the game, and was especially damaging in the first half as the Panthers tore the Hunters apart.
The 120kg, 196cm second rower had been a player to watch for the Panthers heading into the game, and he didn’t disappoint with a powerhouse display.
Some power running was matched with some great offloads, as seen by his involvement in the first three tries.
Forwards Sione Katoa and Moses Leota were also great for Penrith and the signs are good given the dominance of this team in the second tier and the promise and youth of their NRL side. It could be good times ahead for Penrith.
HUNTERS WIN SECOND HALF, BUT WAITED TOO LONG TO SHOW THEIR BEST
The PNG Hunters were clearly shellshocked at half time; they got better in the second half, but took way too long to show some of the qualities that saw them win the Intrust Super Cup.
Their goal-line defence improved dramatically. That intense, tough goal-line defence was the cornerstone of their premiership win in Queensland, keeping Redcliffe tryless and Sunshine Coast to only two tries despite plenty of attacking threat.
While they weren’t quite as sharp in the second 40, the Panthers still threw a bit at the Hunters, and this time the Hunters kept Penrith to just one try, the first of the second half to winger Maika Sivo in the 46th minute. That was the Panthers’ only points as the Hunters beat them 18-4 in the second half.
Unfortunately it took PNG too long to throw the ball around and show a little more of the ad lib stuff that hooked so many fans in their early seasons in the Intrust Super Cup. The Hunters tried to play their power game up the middle, but were thoroughly out-muscled by the huge Penrith pack for most of the match.
The late flurry of tries started in the 68th minute to much support around the Olympic Stadium, as PNG centre Adex Wera took advantage of some good lead up work from Stargroth Amean and Ase Boas down the PNG right-hand side.
Adex Wera was involved again a few minutes later after his great run down the right-hand side and chip kick for Ase Boas ended in a penalty and Panthers’ sin binning for holding back the Hunters’ five eighth. They spread the ball left from the penalty and the other PNG centre Bland Abavu crossed.
The Hunters had time for one more try to cheer up their many fans, and it seems only just that the Hunters’ captain and Intrust Super Cup’s best player – and best on ground on grand final day – Ase Boas got to sign off their 2017 season in style.
THE TURNING POINT WAS ADEX WERA/STARGROTH AMEAN NO TRY JUST BEFORE HALF TIME
A potential turning point for the game came in the 35th minute as the Hunters attempted to take advantage of a rare extended period with the ball and good territory.
The PNG centre chased hard from fullback Stargroth Amean’s grubber kick, and although the ball looked to have only hit his knee and was initially awarded a try by the on-field referee, the Bunker was called to confirm, and they rightly adjudged the Hunters to have touched the ball.
Had they scored it would have been 28-8 and the Hunters with a chance going into the break.
The Panthers went on to score another two tries before the break, and that potential 28-8 became 38-2, and game over.
As the Hunters hit back late in this game – and did so in the Intrust Super Cup grand final the week before – a 20-point gap could have been manageable, but not 36. Throw in the fact that over 70% of teams who score in the final five minutes before half time go on to win the game.
It was a shame the game wasn’t closer, and for the many PNG rugby league fans and admirers that they were so far off the pace, but it is still a great concept that will only get better as the current NYC players join the state-based competition teams from 2018.
Good signs for Penrith for the future, and the Hunters can be proud of their achievements, not only in 2017 but ever since their inception into the Intrust Super Cup in 2014. All without the help of an NRL side.
PENRITH PANTHERS 42
Tries: Tony Satini (8m), Tony Satini (11m), Tony Satini (15m), Darren Nicholls (20m), Viliame Kikau (30m), Christian Crichton (37m), Tony Satini (40m), Maika Sivo (46m)
Goals: Darren Nicholls 5/8 Conv
PNG HUNTERS 18
Tries: Adex Wera (68m), Bland Abavu (71m), Ase Boas (76m)
Goals: Ase Boas 3/3 Conv