Penrith Panthers picked up a 30-18 victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs on Friday night despite missing a host of players because of State of Origin duty.
The Panthers are priced at 8/5 to go back-to-back and win the 2022 NRL premiership and are looking even stronger than last year.
The Panthers proved they have the strength in depth as New South Wales Origin stars Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin and Brian To’o all watched on from the sidelines.
Sean O’Sullivan and debutante Kurt Falls both put in impressive performances and coach Ivan Cleary was pleased with what he saw.
Ponga fit and ready for Origin
Penrith struggled without their star men during last season’s Origin series but there was no sign of that this time.
“I was happy with the week and happy with the game,” Cleary said post-match. “The start of the second half, we probably couldn’t build pressure with our last plays, which we’re normally really good at. But all in all I was very happy.”
The Bulldogs put up a good fight and got to within two points at 20-18 before the Panthers got the job done at the end.
“Apart from our overplaying, I’m quite happy with our attack but we’re just giving the other team too many opportunities,” interim coach Mick Potter told reporters.
“We have to build our resilience in our ‘D’ early on. Right at the moment, it’s not acceptable and we need to start better.”
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