The Penrith Panthers have ended their regular season in fine fashion ahead of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals Series, defeating the Wentworthville Magpies 44-14 at Ringrose Park.
Wentworthville came into the clash with little but pride to play for; Illawarra's Round 25 draw with the Bulldogs on Saturday robbed them of a chance to push for an eighth-place finish to the regular season. In their final game of 2017 they were to be almost unchanged - only Josh Hoffman was replaced by Scott Schulte - while the Panthers welcomed Tony Satini, Moses Leota, Cowen Epere and Oliver Clark into the fold. Five-eighth Jarome Luai was immense for the visitors, getting a well-deserved hat-trick and influencing several other Penrith tries.
Less than two minutes had passed when the Panthers opened the scoring, with fullback Tom Eisenhuth and Dean Whare linking up to send Maika Sivo over to score. Nicholls conversion from out wide was waved away and Penrith led 4-0 early.
The Magpies hit back almost immediately in a sign of a high-scoring contest, with Nathan Davis hitting the line off a short ball to open the home side's account. That came after two excruciatingly near misses to Dane Aukafolau and Honeti Tuha, with Davis also making no mistake with the boot to push his side in front.
Penrith Panthers 44 (J Luai 3, V Kikau 2, M Sivo, C Crichton, D Nicholls tries; D Nicholls 5 goals)
Wentworthville Magpies 14 (N Davis, C Nelson, M Woods tries; N Davis goals)