The Panthers have all but ended the Raiders finals hopes with a 26-6 win, with Dylan Edwards putting in a brave masterclass at GIO Stadium.
The Raiders got off to a dream start with Josh Papalii barging over from close range under the sticks, before the Panthers scored four straight tries to Api Koroisau, Stephen Crichton, Dylan Edwards and Jaeman Salmon to storm home to a convincing victory.
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Papalii got the Raiders off to a flyer with a barge over try under the sticks to give the home side the early advantage.
The Panthers hit back with Origin hooker Api Koroisau scoring to lock up the scores.
An off-side penalty saw Stephen Crichton knock over two points to give the Panthers a slender lead.
Crichton then scored a try after pouncing on a kick from Sean O’Sullivan to extend their lead.
Panthers prop James Fisher-Harris was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Raiders forward Ryan Sutton.
Nick Cotric was sin-binned for a high tackle on Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards with the Raiders reduced to 12 men just as the Panthers returned to 13 men.
Edwards finished off a long-range try in his milestone 100th match to push the visitors out to a commanding 14 point lead.
Luai’s replacement Jaeman Salmon scored a brilliant solo try with a show and go to put the result beyond doubt.
Here are the key takeaways from the match.
EDWARDS’ BRAVE SHOWING LEADS PANTHERS TO VICTORY
Dylan Edwards battle injury and was hit a couple of times with enormous tackles, but battled through in a heroic showing to lead the Panthers to victory.
Edwards finished with 155 metres, six tackle busts, two offloads, a linebreak and a long-range try that broke the back of the Raiders.
Michael Ennis marvelled at Edwards’ toughness after he bounced back from injury to score a crucial try to make it 20-6 in the second half.
“He is made of steel Dylan Edwards,” Ennis said.
“He was on his haunches uncomfortable with what was troubling him his shoulder or collarbone.
“But he kept pressing and pushing through the middle.
“Edwards grimacing and in pain somehow puts himself in the frame. Physically forcing himself to stay in the contest even though he is in pain.
“What a remarkable player he is. What a tough customer.
“He is a superstar to the Panthers. They wouldn’t trade him for anyone because of the work that he gets through and the way that he compliments the Penrith style.
“He shows real desperation defensively and that try showed his toughness. It was a tough moment.”
KOROISAU STEPS UP IN ABSENCE OF PANTHERS HALVES
The Panthers needed some of their Origin stars to step up in the absence of Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai and while Sean O’Sullivan was strong, Api Koroisau was superb at dummyhalf.
The Panthers were down 6-0 early before Koroisau took it upon himself to get the Panthers back in the contest with a solo try out of dummyhalf and they never looked back.
Cooper Cronk believes Koroisau’s try turned the momentum in the Panthers’ favour.
“It was Api Koroisau just probing and scheming out of dummyhalf just close to the line,” Cronk said.
Ennis believes the Panthers needed Koroisau to be at his best and he answered the call.
“Koroisau out of dummyhalf just gets through the tackle of Woolford and slides underneath,” Ennis said.
“He just ducks and weaves. Koroisau was wreaking havoc through the middle of the Raiders’ defensive line.
“He got the Panthers straight back into the contest.”
Corey Parker praised Koroisau for taking ownership of the side.
“Without Luai and Cleary they needed some of their other stars to stand up and Koroisau did that,” Parker said.
Koroisau finished with 26 run metres, three tackle busts, a linebreak, 25 tackles and a try.
RAIDERS FINALS HOPES FADE DESPITE PAPALII MASTERCLASS
The Raiders started strongly and led 6-0 on the back of a try to Josh Papalii, but they will rue a missed chance as their finals aspirations took a massive hit.
Corey Parker believes the Raiders were the better team early, but the Panthers didn’t allow them to stay in the contest as the game wore on.
“The Canberra Raiders crossed for the first try of the game through Josh Papalii and they dominated at different stages, but the Panthers just hung in there,” Parker said.
Papalii finished with 100 metres from 11 runs, three tackle busts, a linebreak, 25 tackles and a try in a superb display.
The Raiders missed Xavier Savage’s spark in attack and halves Jack Wighton and Jamal Fogarty were unable to create any real try-scoring opportunities.
The Raiders now find themselves two points behind the eighth placed Roosters with a poor points differential and with just four games remaining it is hard to see them playing finals footy.
They also lost arguably their best forward this season in Joe Tapine to a rib injury.
The Canberra Raiders host the Penrith Panthers in a crucial clash at GIO Stadium.
Raiders fullback Xavier Savage has been ruled out with an ankle injury, with Albert Hopoate getting a rare start in the custodian role.
Jordan Rapana returns from suspension on the wing, while Adam Elliott is expected to overcome a hip injury to take his place at lock.
For the Panthers Viliame Kikau has been ruled out with a hip injury, with Christopher Smith slotting into the back row and Sunia Turuva coming onto the bench.
Sean O’Sullivan replaces the suspended Nathan Cleary at halfback, while Jaeman Salmon comes in at five-eighth.
Stephen Crichton returns from a nasty ear injury in the centres, while back-up hooker Mitch Kenny returns on the bench.
The ninth placed Raiders desperately need to win to keep their finals hopes alive, while the Panthers can all but wrap up the minor premiership with a victory.
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