Canterbury coach Des Hasler has predicted Penrith could go deep into September after ending the Bulldogs’ NRL season.
The Panthers claimed a comprehensive 28-12, five-tries-to-two win in Sunday’s elimination final at Allianz Stadium to book a semi-final showdown with Canberra.
Led by a man-of-the-match effort from skipper Matt Moylan, the young, inexperienced Panthers were down 6-4 at the break but totally dominated proceedings in the second stanza to run away with victory via four second half tries.
“They did better than I thought. They improved today,” Hasler said.
“They could be a surprise packet, there could be a few more upsets.
“The Raiders definitely won’t take them lightly.”
Two-time premiership winning coach Hasler should know, this was his 12th successive finals series with Manly and the Bulldogs.
Canterbury, who played in the 2012 and 2014 grand finals under Hasler went into the clash with the young Panthers side with far greater finals experience.
But it was Penrith’s youthful exuberance which won the day.
“It was a really good performance,” Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said.
“I was happy with the way we built into it.
“We kept our cool with the ball and eventually found the points we needed.”
An early first half try to playmaker Moses Mbye and a penalty goal had the Dogs up 6-0 before a Dallin Watene-Zelezniak four pointer just before the break reduced the margin to two points.
Tries to Waqa Blake, Peter Wallace, Tyrone Peachey and Josh Mansour for Penrith after halftime were too much for the Dogs who only managed a try to the retiring Sam Perrett a minute from time.
Second half injuries to Brett Morris, Josh Reynolds and Michael Lichaa made the Dogs’ day even tougher.
Morris had filled in at fullback for Will Hopoate who sat out the match due to his religious beliefs.
“It was very disappointing,” Hasler said.
“The simple fact is we didn’t compete well enough in the second half.
“I know you will say there were injuries and we had people missing but we just missed too many tackles.”
Griffin said a shoulder injury wouldn’t prevent Blake from playing Canberra.
Dogs forward Tony Williams, who has played his last game for the club, could be in trouble for a second half shoulder charge.