NRL grand final 2017: Penrith Panthers far too strong for PNG Hunters in State Championship

The PNG Hunters could not replicate their fairytale result from a week ago, as the Penrith Panthers proved far too strong in the contest between the NSW and Queensland Cup Premiers, claiming the NRL State Championship with a 42-18 win.

The Hunters were out of the game within the opening 20, with travel and a massive Panthers pack boasting substantial NRL experience, proving too much - although funnily enough, it was the one man among Penrith's starting forwards without a first grade appearance to his name, Kaide Ellis, who was named man of the match.

With Prime Minister Peter O'Neill watching from the sidelines, it was a promising start for the underdogs – a penalty goal to captain Ase Boas giving them the lead in the third minute.

Penrith were quick to respond, taking the lead six minutes later – the Hunters had been caught short on their right edge a couple of times in the opening exchanges, and an overlap on that side saw centre Tony Satini crash over in the corner.

Satini didn't have to wait long for his second, an early switch seeing winger Christian Crichton easily beat his man and dash away down the wing, before drawing the fullback and turning it back inside to his support man on the following set. 

Incredibly, it was a hat-trick for the centre within the opening 15 minutes of the game – Villiame Kikau barged through some lacklustre defending before Satini was once again backing up.

Halfback Darren Nicholls went himself from 10 metres out for Penrith's fourth. He converted his own try and the Panthers had 22 points before the clock had reached that many minute.

PNG enjoyed a strong spell, but despite multiple sets on the Penrith line, they couldn't find a way through and the next score was again Penrith's, Kikau going himself this time. 

With 35 minutes gone, PNG finally looked to have their first four-pointer, but the bunker showed centre Adex Wera's finger brushing the ball in the lead-up to keep them tryless. Penrith would snag another, again on the left, with Crichton scoring after a Nicholls kick was completely misjudged by Butler Morris – and then the final act of a catastrophic first half for PNG saw Satini grab a fourth as the siren sounded. Penrith only avoided equalling the clock at 40 thanks to Nicholls' sideline conversion hooking wide.

It was more of the same after the break, Maika Sivo crossing on the other wing to extend the lead to 40, equalling the biggest margin in the four-year history of this game: a 52-12 win for Illawarra over Burleigh last year.

The points dried up, but it wasn't for a lack of trying on the Panthers' part – they routinely broke the line and bulldozed their way through the middle of the park, but the clinical finishing that was there in the first 40 had abandoned them. Satini could have had another couple, only to be denied by some strong defence. 

The crowd was begging for a PNG try, and they nearly got it through Wera, as he made a break down the right wing thanks to a great ball from Boas and kicked ahead for the skipper to chase – only for Jarome Luai to pull down his opposite number, and be sent to the bin.

PNG took full advantage of the extra man with Wera then scoring untouched on the following set, much to the delight of the fans that had already poured into ANZ Stadium, with the many Papua New Guinean flags in the stands waving in delight.

They went back-to-back on the following set, with the other centre, Bland Abavu, crossing after a big burst by Wera again – drawing the biggest cheer of the afternoon – before Boas, with an assist from brother Watson, scored their third on 76 minutes to add some respectability to the scoreline.

Gippsland Senior
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