Panthers 32 Raiders 10
Panthers dominate the Raiders
Action from Penrith's 32-10 round one NRL win over Canberra. Photo: Getty Images
Canberra Raiders skipper David Shillington needed just one word - "disgraceful" - to describe his side’s 32-10 loss at Penrith on Sunday.
And no one was arguing after Canberra served up an insipid, ill-disciplined and error-ridden performance to start its season.
Name any schoolboy error possible in rugby league, and the Raiders were likely guilty of it.
Caught on the final tackle. Forward passes out of dummy-half. Handling errors coming out of danger. Dumb penalties.
All these blemishes were on the Raiders' rap sheet, and Shillington conceded the mental frailties Canberra is sometimes accused of came to the fore.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, not so much technical stuff, the boys just have to get their heads right,’’ Shillington said.
“As soon as we work on that we’re going to be a great team, if we can’t get over it we’re going to struggle.’’
The loss was compounded by another injury to fullback Josh Dugan, who was virtually a passenger after suffering rib cartilage damage midway through the first half.
He also limped from Centrebet Stadium with ice strapped around his left thigh, but he insisted it was only a cork.
Canberra lost the penalty count 7-6, but they conceded them at the worst possible times.
The referees have made a point of trying to speed up the play-the-ball in round one, and Canberra was penalised for a string of ruck infringements.
“There’s no confusion [with the new interpretations] with the players, we’ve been told this all year with our opposed sessions, when the refs have been coming down,’’ Shillington said.
“We’ve known for months, it’s about the boys being more disciplined.
“We talked about completing sets all week but ball security wasn’t high on our agenda apparently, we were never going to win that game.’’
Asked if some players were over-confident against a Panthers side which finished 15th last year, Shillington said: “Maybe some individuals, yeah.’’
Told of Shillington’s comments, Raiders coach David Furner said: “Gee I hope not, I’ll get that out of them pretty quick.
“I did talk about we were going to be heading into a street fight game and they’d be scrapping for everything.
“We had an opportunity to get over that side and we didn’t take it.’’
Canberra entered the game as favourites after strike players Josh Dugan (infection) and Jarrod Croker (knee) were late inclusions, but the Raiders were their own worst enemies from the outset.
Played in very hot conditions, Penrith were gift-wrapped a heap of possession and field position early, but the Raiders nearly took the lead against the run of play.
Earl decided not to pass inside to unmarked centre Blake Ferguson, and dropped the ball over the line attempting to ground it in the corner.
It would have proven a big mental blow for the Panthers, who completely dictated the opening 20 minutes.
Instead Penrith scored five tries to one to give its fans hope of a climb up the ladder this season.
Down 18-6, the Raiders got back in the game when Ferguson scooped up a loose pass from five-eighth Josh McCrone to score in the corner, and reduce the deficit to 18-10.
But a penalty goal and late tries to former Raiders Nathan Smith and Nigel Plum compounded Canberra’s misery.
Reece Robinson missed the game with back spasms, but is expected to be fit for next Sunday’s clash against the Titans on the Gold Coast.
The loss capped a tough day for the Raiders, who also went down 40-16 to the Panthers in the Holden Cup under-20s fixture.
PENRITH PANTHERS 32 (L Coote S Manu N Plum J Segeyaro N Smith tries L Walsh 6 goals) bt CANBERRA RAIDERS 10 (B Ferguson J McCrone tries J Croker goal) at Centrebet Stadium. Referee: Adam Devcich, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 10,882.