AAP Rugby

Panthers burn Dragons for seven in a row

By AAP Newswire

A first-half double from rookie Brian To'o has inspired Penrith to a 40-18 rout of St George Illawarra and extend their NRL winning streak to seven.

A week after producing an acrobatic brace over Gold Coast, To'o again lit up Panthers Stadium with another double on Friday night.

Centre Brent Naden also nabbed a pair in a contest that was separated by just four points at halftime and seemingly headed for a dogfight.

But the home side turned on the afterburners with a four-try, 16-minute blitz in the second half to leave the Dragons' campaign in tatters.

Moses Leota, Nathan Cleary and Reagan Campbell-Gillard also scored as the Panthers improved their for-and-against and improved to seventh on the ladder.

Penrith are also now within two points of third-placed Canberra, who they face next week as they attempt to equal a club-record eighth straight victory.

It was easily the best attacking display of the season for Ivan Cleary's side, obliterating their previous season-high of 24 points registered just last week.

More importantly, halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney - combining for just the third time during their run - had their attack humming from the kick-off.

The NSW State of Origin duo set up four tries and four line breaks between them.

Naden looked to have posted opening points in the corner but was denied by a desperate Matt Dufty, who was penalised for a shoulder charge.

Penrith didn't have to wait long to draw first blood however, with To'o producing his first display of acrobatics with his aerial plant of a Maloney kick.

Naden eventually got his first try not long after.

St George Illawarra responded through Mikaele Ravalawa, and took a shock lead when Josh Kerr strolled through in the 35th minute.

But To'o ensured the Panthers had the advantage into the break when he was turned inside and found some lazy defence through the middle for a solo try.

"That was a huge try, a huge moment, actually," Ivan Cleary said post-game.

"I thought we were really good at the start of the game, and then probably two defensive lapses cost us two tries.

"But it was definitely an important strike, that one ... to be able to go in at halftime leading.

"And then to be able to score first halftime broke it open."

To'o and Naden, both of whom made their debuts this year, now have six tries apiece from as many games.

Penrith never looked back from there, taking full advantage of a Dragons side that showed little second-half resistance before dropping their third straight game.

There was drama late in the game when Viliame Kikau was sin-binned and put on report for a late shot on Dragons halfback Darren Nicholls.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor was at a loss to explain their second half no-show.

"When you look at the amount of energy and intensity we played at in that first 35 minutes with the lack of possession and field position ... we just didn't show any of that in the second half," he said.

"I can't explain it right now because it shouldn't happen."