Stephen Crichton puts down State of Origin marker with hat-trick in Penrith’s demolition of Raiders as reigning premiers maintain perfect record
- Penrith beat Canberra Raiders 36-6 to remain unbeaten this season
- Stephen Crichton starred for the reigning premiers and grabbed a hat-trick
- Panthers star has now scored six tries in seven games this season
- Canberra have lost four consecutive games and are 15th on the ladder
Stephen Crichton put himself in the State of Origin conversation by underpinning Penrith’s seventh straight win of 2022 with a hat-trick as the Panthers scored a 36-6 victory over the Canberra Raiders.
After Crichton was awarded his third – a penalty try after interference from Raiders centre Matt Timoko – the 20,000-plus Penrith fans began a mock Viking clap to add a little more salt into the wounds of Raiders fans.
They did it again 10 minutes from fulltime when the result was inevitable.
Stephen Crichton (centre) grabbed a hat-trick as Penrith beat Canberra 36-6 on Sunday
Penrith remain blemish-free for the year winning seven on the trot, the only unbeaten team in the NRL.
Crichton’s performance – that’s now six tries in seven games – was played out in front of NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler who was sideline commentator for Channel Nine.
Fittler is likely to have a vacancy in his centre ranks for the opening Origin game in Sydney on June 8 with both incumbents Latrell Mitchell (hamstring) and Tom Trbojevic (knee) still several weeks from returning.
The Panthers start was at his best in front of NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler
The Origin team will be named after round 12.
Crichton did his chances no harm after Cronulla centre Siosifa Talakai pushed his name into the ring with a swashbuckling two tries, three try assists and three line-breaks in Thursday’s win over Manly.
For Canberra there is more disappointment.
They hung in relentlessly for a large chunk of the game but caved in during the final 18 minutes.
The Raiders hung into the game but were ultimately suffocated by Penrith’s defence
Penrith are renowned for suffocating sides, the 14-6 halftime scoreline ballooning out to a 30-point win.
Something had to give after the opening 13 minutes with the Raiders camped on their line and Crichton finally crossed for the Panthers in the right-side corner.
But anyone who thought the Raiders would be fatigued from all that defending had to think again. Prop Joe Tapine ran hard onto the ball and over the Panthers line four minutes later to help level things up 6-6.
Viliame Kikau (above right) scored Penrith’s sixth and final try of the day on Sunday
The Panthers remain unbeaten in the NRL this season with seven wins in seven games
Perhaps some tiredness did finally arrive close to halftime, when Isaah Yeo skipped through a yawning gap with Nathan Cleary kicking the conversion and then a penalty for a 14-6 lead at the break.
The second half mirrored the first in the opening minutes. Once again the Raiders were pinned in their own 20-metre zone, only this time they rarely escaped.
And once again it was Crichton, who burrowed through a few Raiders bodies to reward the Panthers’ perseverance. His third came three minutes later and then the floodgates were opened.
Tries to Taylan May and Viliame Kikau finished off another merciless showing by the defending premiers.