Penrith have started their grand final day in the best possible way, taking out the State Championship in dominant fashion against Norths Devils.
In a clash pitting the NSW Cup premiers against the QLD Cup premiers, it was the Panthers who proved themselves to be far too strong with a 44-10 win at Accor Stadium.
Penrith were littered with players with NRL experience, including the likes of Matt Eisenhuth and Sunia Turuva, and flexed their muscle against the two-time champions from up north.
J’maine Hopgood opened the scoring for the Panthers in the 7th minute, before tries to Soni Luke and Eddie Blacker before half-time gave them an 18-0 lead heading into the break.
Luke had a fantastic day out in another potential audition for the starting No.9 role next year, with Api Koroisau moving to the Tigers. The 26-year-old finished with 94 run metres, two try assists and 24 tackles to go with his own four-pointer.
It was one-way traffic again for the Panthers early in the second stanza, with both Robert Jennings and John Faiumu crossing for tries before the 50th minute to put the game out of reach for the Devils.
Luke was sin-binned for a professional foul with 20 minutes remaining, but the score was out of reach for the Devils by that stage and the Panthers defence simply wouldn’t budge. The victors managed to score with 12 men on the field, with Luke Sommerton racing away untouched through some average defence.
The skipper Hopgood would score his second try for the Panthers in the 71st minute, regathering a grubber and scoring under the stick in his final game for the club before he joins Parramatta on a two-year deal.
Tony Tumusa and Rashaun Denny crossed for late consolation tries in the dying stages, giving the Devils fans something to cheer about for a short period.
Turuva would also complete a brace with the final play of the game, flying down the sideline and showing off the pace that will have Fijian fans excited heading into the Rugby League World Cup
Norths won their second-straight Q-Cup title last weekend with a 16-10 win over Redcliffe, but were no match for the champions from NSW.
The win for the Panthers started off a huge day for the club in perfect fashion, and continued their recent success on the field.
After taking out the Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup titles last weekend, the Panthers now rely on their first grade side to make it a perfect 2022 for the senior sides.
Penrith will take on Parramatta in the NRL Grand Final at 7.30pm.