Penrith sent a spirited and vocal message to their critics with a comprehensive 32-10 victory over Canberra at Centrebet Stadium this afternoon.
The Panthers looked far fitter and more determined than the Raiders, who rarely threatened Penrith despite the close scoreline for much of the game.
New recruits Sika Manu, James Segeyaro and Wes Naiqama led the way for the Panthers, Segeyaro in particular proving an important injection into the side.
“I thought Chiko (Segeyaro) was really good tonight, he had added something and after that first 20 we needed that,” said Panthers captain Kevin Kingston.
“He sort of changed the game and that’s going to be his role, and we needed him to do that.”
Segeyaro helped spark Penrith’s first try, scored by Manu, and grabbed their second just before half-time when he went from dummy half and barged over.
Leading 12-6 at the break, the Panthers extended their lead when Lachlan Coote took advantage of some sloppy Raiders work close to the line, making it 18-6.
Canberra hit back with a try to reduce the gap to eight, before the Panthers went a further two points clear when they bizarrely opted to take a penalty goal when up 18-10.
Whilst the decision kept Canberra in the game, in the end, it mattered little, with the Panthers finishing the game strongly; tries to Nathan Smith and Nigel Plum inflicting further pain on the Raiders.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary labelled it a “mature performance”.
“They put some pressure on us defensively and maybe we lost a bit of confidence through that but that didn’t get us off our game, which is good,” he said.
“It was pretty difficult conditions out there. It’s one thing training and playing trial games but playing in round one when the interchanges are less and the pressure is on, it takes a little bit more out of everyone and it looks like that was the case today.”
Whilst the Panthers’ performance was far from clinical, it was enough to prove that the side has what it takes to be competitive through the season.
Penrith 32 (Tries: Sika Manu, James Segeyaro, Lachlan Coote, Nathan Smith, Nigel Plum. Goals: Luke Walsh 6/6) def Canberra 10 (Tries: Josh McCrone, Blake Ferguson. Goals: Jarrod Croker 0/1). Crowd: 10,882.
Holden Cup: Penrith 40 def Canberra 16