The Penrith Panthers have become the first team in NRL history to pick up two clean sheets from their opening two rounds after keeping the Canterbury Bulldogs to nil in a dour, wet weather affair that ended 28-0.
Not many tipsters would have had Canterbury in the winner’s circle heading into this game, with last year’s Grand Finalists the obvious choice for a safe bet.
Nonetheless, the opening half would prove anything but one-sided as both teams struggled to build momentum in the torrential rain.
The game looked like it may threaten to heat up early, with big man Viliame Kikau the grateful recipient of a beautiful short pass from superstar Jarome Luai.
The powerful edge runner sliding over for an early four-pointer, in the fourth minute.
From there, the match would remain neck-and-neck, with the Bulldogs preventing the Panthers from capitalising on their early points.
Whether it was the weather or stout Canterbury defence, there was little to separate the two sides.
Later in the first half, it looked like the Bulldogs were set to claw back an unlikely lead.
A tall bomb was taken by Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and then shoveled out the back.
The ball was spread to Nick Cotric on the left, who managed three tackle busts coming back towards the uprights, eventually putting in a deft kick for Corey Allen to pounce on.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the video referee would overturn the on-field decision of try, with Watene-Zelezniak ruled to have knocked the ball on in the lead-up.
That denied try seemed to deflate the up-to-this-point resilient Bulldogs outfit and proved to be a turning point for the rest of the match.
Just before the half-time siren, the crafty five-eighth Luai would step up once again, jinking and weaving before delivering a grubber to a storming Tyrone May, giving the Panthers a two-try lead heading into the break.
Despite the breather, both teams seem to come out of the break lethargic and unable to find a spark of attack.
While the rain did begin to ease up early in the half, the water-logged pitch slowed both teams and prevented much of their attacking flourish.
The Penrith Panthers began to break away, however, with penalties and set restarts seeming to go their way.
The stats tell the story, with Penrith finishing with a total of 50 sets to the Bulldogs 30. Similarly, the Panthers posted more than 1800 run metres to the Bulldogs 1063.
The extra defending eventually took its toll on the Bulldogs, with the untouchable Kikau strolling over for his second in the 58th minute.
From there, Canterbury was no hope of fighting back for a victory.
A frustrated Dallin Watene-Zelezniak tackled Nathan Cleary high, forcing the playmaker from the field and earning an early bath for himself.
The tired defence would then see new recruit Paul Momirovski crash over for two late tries to seal the game 28 points to nil, ensuring the Panthers’ place in NRL history.
Penrith Panthers 28 (Kikau 2, May, Momirovski 2) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 0
Nathan Cleary 2/3
Stephen Crichton 2/2
NRL News Player of the Match
3 Points – Jarome Luai (PEN)
2 Points – Viliame Kikau (PEN)
1 Point – Paul Momirovski (PEN)