The Penrith Panthers have continued their flawless start to the NRL season with an emphatic 24-6 win over over the Knights on Thursday night.
Undefeated after their first seven games, Penrith's stars have been accused of "cockiness" and "arrogance" after swatting away all contenders so far this season.
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The Panthers were slammed after their win against Canberra in round five over a disrespectful try celebration that turned ugly when Stephen Crichton grabbed Raiders rival Joseph Tapine while he was waiting on the sideline to re-enter the match.
The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Crawley described the incident as lacking “class and respect”, with Penrith's players accused in many quarters of being arrogant.
Penrith hit back at the accusations in round six with one of the most low-key try celebrations possible, as winger Brian To’o calmly shook hands with Matt Burton after the latter crossed for a four-pointer against the Broncos.
In Thursday night's round seven clash against the Knights, Burton was again at the centre of a curious incident before he went over for the Panthers' second try of the match.
The Penrith centre looked as if he was preparing to launch into a show-boating swan dive as he angled back in-field to put the ball down under the posts.
Perhaps aware of how that might look considering the match wasn't even 20 minutes old, Burton pulled out of the outlandish act and ended up doing a bizarre long jump before putting the ball down.
The incident was not lost on commentator Andrew Voss, who suggested the "arrogant" barbs may have been behind Burton's apparent decision to ditch the swan dive.
“If he does it backwards, it’s 10 out of 10,” he said. “He could go in the Olympics in the high jump," Voss said.
“He looked like he was about to take off. “Watch this again. He thought ‘no no, it’s too early in the game, remember we’re not arrogant, we just score the try.’
“He was going to launch and then made it a more conventional try.”
Perfect Panthers roll on against Newcastle
In a high-quality game on Thursday night where Kalyn Ponga was dangerous as ever for Newcastle, Penrith's young guns Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary still had the last laugh.
James Fisher-Harris was also immense in the middle for the Panthers, who have still only conceded two tries in the second half of games this year.
With the score stuck at 10-6 for what felt like an age after the break, Penrith looked in danger of dropping their first game of the year in round seven.
But in the big moments, Penrith just keep stepping up and winning.
They've now won 22 straight regular-season matches and haven't been beaten at home since way back in July 2019.
Never was their winning habit more evident than in a crucial five-minute period in the second half.
Looking on the ropes after a Brian To'o error on first tackle, Newcastle had every chance to go 12-10 up and put the pressure on the Panthers with 20 minutes to play.
But Penrith's defence stood firm as Ponga put on a poor ball that was dropped by Brodie Jones, letting the Panthers off the hook.
A penalty moments later let Cleary kick them six points clear, and with the game as good as good as gone To'o and Dylan Edwards ran in late tries to seal it.
"I thought we were on top for most the game," Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said.
"I thought the Knights did a really good job of hanging in there and disrupting us. There were five six-again tackle-ones in the first half.
"The last couple of weeks have shown every team brings their best or close to it when they prepare for us, so it's a challenge we have to keep facing."
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