Brian To’o stars as Penrith Panthers make it seven straight wins by defeating Newcastle Knights


Opposition teams trying to slow the Penrith attack had become such an issue that Cleary said he had taken the matter up with referees boss Jared Maxwell.

“We’re first in a lot of areas, yet we’re ninth or 10th with play-the-balls in less than four seconds,” Cleary said.

“I’ve seen it in a few other games, too. Tonight was another level again.

“I thought we were on top for most of the game. I thought the Knights did a really good job hanging in there and disrupting us. There were five tackle-one six-agains in the first half, so it was clearly a tactic. The play-the-balls were so slow tonight.″⁣

Penrith, who remain the only side unbeaten through seven rounds, have now gone 22 straight regular-season games without a loss.

Their popularity has quickly spread to the other side of the mountain with next Saturday’s game in Bathurst against Manly already a sellout.

Even off the field the news continues to get better with Cleary declaring in the sheds after full-time his assistant Cameron Ciraldo was staying put and passing on the Cronulla job. Ciraldo then drained a schooner of XXXX.

You would not have known Penrith were even playing during the week given the intense headlines involving Chad Townsend’s departure for North Queensland and Latrell Mitchell’s four-match dangerous contact ban.

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It was so easy to forget Penrith centre Paul Momirovski, like Mitchell, was also unsuccessful at the judiciary and suspended for three games.

So strong are the Panthers right now, Momirovski might find it hard to force his way back into the starting team when he does return.

Edwards returned from a broken hand while Api Koroisau was also scheduled to return, only for stomach bug to make him wait one more week.

Stephen Crichton shifted to right centre to accommodate Edwards, while coach Cleary was happy to reward Matt Burton for his excellent form and leave him in Crichton’s preferred left-centre position.

Burton, Jarome Luai and Edwards were also outstanding.

One of Penrith’s favourite sons, Brad Fittler, said in the Nine commentary: “No wonder they’re packing the stands – they are outstanding to watch.”

Knights coach Adam O’Brien said: “If we had that type of scramble and resolve towards our defence, we’re not sitting where we are on the ladder, and we probably pick up a few games.

“At the end of the day, whenever you [concede] 24 points, it’s not flattering. But we put up a good fight tonight. We are not as polished as the opposition are [right now].”

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The Knights struggled to start their sets in good field position, especially in the second half. The rare time they did venture up Penrith’s end of the field in the second half, they coughed up the ball. Their only try came about from Kikau being forced to pull out of a tackle on Mann that would have been high.

Newcastle host the Sydney Roosters next week. They can only hope St George Illawarra bash them around on Sunday.

This game belonged to Penrith. Especially To’o.

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