By Tony Webeck, NRL.com
A first-half procession has allowed Penrith to comfortably claim the Intrust Super State Championship over a brave PNG Hunters team that finished much stronger than they started.
There was great anticipation of the Hunters being part of the NRL’s showpiece day as Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup champions but after scoring first through a penalty goal in the second minute they had no answer to the power and professionalism of the Penrith team who led 38-2 at half-time.
PNG’s one-dimensional approach in attack played into the hands of a Penrith team that monstered them physically but the longer the match went the more adventurous style that has historically been synonymous with PNG players came to the fore and was rewarded with three late tries, eventually going down 42-18.
Centre Tony Satini was the hero for the Panthers with four first-half tries and the Penrith forwards laid a powerful foundation as they won their first State Championship having gone down to the Northern Pride in 2014.
Wasteful of opportunities a week earlier the Hunters actually completed at 90 per cent in the first half but made an error in two of the first three sets of the second half and the 38-2 half-time scoreline blew out even further when Jed Cartwright put Penrith winger Maika Sivo over in the corner eight minutes into the second term.
Displaying the type of courage that has defined their season the Hunters failed to surrender and with some enterprising play scored their first try 12 minutes from full-time courtesy of Adex Wera after Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai had been sin-binned for a professional foul.
Buoyed by the support of the building crowd the Hunters went back-to-back after two brilliant passes from the Boas brothers Ase and Watson who put Wera in space and then provided a spectacular cut-out pass for Bland Abavu to score wide out on the left.
The Intrust Super Cup’s Player of the Year Ase Boas then enjoyed a moment of his own to cut through and score his side’s third try in the space of eight minutes as PNG claimed the second half honours 16-4 in a performance their countrymen would be proud of.
It was a somewhat nervy start for Penrith who failed to complete their first two sets of the game but the end of the Panthers’ third set was the first try to Satini in the left-hand corner and three tackles after the kick-off Satini had his second courtesy of a bust down the left wing by Christian Crichton.
With the Panthers forwards rampant through the middle of the field it was Viliame Kikau who was next to breach the Hunters’ defensive line and again it was Satini in support, completing a hat-trick inside the opening quarter of the contest.
The point-scoring procession continued for the Panthers when Darren Nicholls attacked the line from 10 metres out and his right-hand fend secured a path under the posts and after a brief period of PNG resistance Penrith asserted their physical dominance to score their fifth try through Kikau in the 32nd minute.
Hunters fullback Stargroth Amean was denied a try late in the first half by the Bunker and Penrith again made them pay, Jarome Luai following through to ground a Nicholls kick two minutes from half-time.
And they weren’t done there, stretching the PNG defence until the final seconds for Satini to crash over and score his fourth as the half-time siren sounded.
Penrith Panthers 42 (Tony Satini 4, Darren Nicholls, Viliame Kikau, Jarome Luai, Maika Sivo tries; Nicholls 5 goals) def. PNG Hunters 18 (Adex Wera, Bland Abavu, Ase Boas tries; Boas 3 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: Panthers 38-2. Man of the Match: Kaide Ellis (Panthers).