Departing Penrith centre Matt Burton bagged the first hat-trick of his NRL career in his home town of Dubbo as the Panthers thrashed the Rabbitohs in a 56-12 victory.
Today’s performance showed exactly why the Panthers had been so defiant in not letting Burton leave for the Bulldogs early.
Former Panthers assistant coach and incumbent Bulldogs mentor Trent Barrett pushed for Penrith to release the 21-year-old this year, arguing he’d play most of the season in the NSW Cup if he stayed at the foot of the mountains, but he’s instead locked down a centre spot in the top grade and thrived.
Burton combined today’s three tries with 152 metres, five tackle busts and three line-breaks as the Panthers charged to an 11th-straight win to start the season.
The 15-game young gun’s first try came in the 26th minute when he got on the end of a slick chain of passes involving halfback Nathan Cleary and five-eighth Jarome Luai.
He snared a double when he soared above Rabbitohs winger Josh Mansour to collect a Cleary bomb and crash over in the 32nd minute.
And he completed his hat-trick on the back of a frantic passage of play in the 52nd minute. Cleary sent a kick heavenward, the beating sun cruelled Mansour and forward Scott Sorensen cleaned up the crumbs and linked with Luai, before Luai found Burton.
Burton doubles up against Souths
“Three tries at home in the NRL, undefeated, it’s what dreams are made of,” said 2004 Bulldogs premiership five-eighth Braith Anasta on Fox League’s coverage.
“It just can’t get any better.”
Not only did Penrith’s thumping of fourth-placed South Sydney bolster their premiership credentials even further, it added the premiership doubts hanging over the Rabbitohs.
It was only two rounds ago that Wayne Bennett’s men were pummelled 50-0 by the Storm at Stadium Australia.
The Panthers are now set for a clash with the Bulldogs in Penrith on Saturday afternoon, while the Rabbitohs will steel themselves for a blockbuster against the Eels at Stadium Australia.