Penrith lost Apisai Koroisau to a virus but proved winning is more contagious as they beat Newcastle 24-6 on Thursday night.
In a high-quality game where Kalyn Ponga was dangerous as ever for Newcastle, Penrith’s young guns of 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.
From the next set Penrith went up field and within minutes had a penalty goal following an offside, allowing Cleary to kick them six clear.
After that, the game was gone as To’o and Dylan Edwards both ran in late tries to seal it.
Edwards’ try came on his return from a broken hand while Koroisau is also due to join him soon after being struck down by a virus.
Newcastle were gutsy as ever and clung on after going down 10-0 early before a Starford To’a 60-metre effort and fend on Dylan Edwards put them back in it.
But Penrith’s attack was sublime.
Their first came when Nathan Cleary grubbered for a hard-chasing Stephen Crichton to score, with the centre moving to the right with Edwards’ back.
Their next was a thing of beauty through Luai.
After the five-eighth jinked in front of the defence with the ball out in his hands, he went short for Matt Burton to run through a gaping hole.
Edwards’ try was also impressive off a scrum play that saw Isaah Yeo break free from lock and find his fullback inside him.
Meanwhile To’o’s last capped off a powerful night for the winger, who topped 200 metres for the fifth time this season with a career-best 290.