By Adam Bagnall (NSWRL.com.au)
The Illawarra Cutters were 46-18 winners over the Penrith Panthers at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Sunday.
Taane Milne and Chris Lewis grabbed doubles and Shaun Nona kicked seven goals in the win.
The Panthers kicked off and the Cutters knocked in the very first tackle of the match, gifting a great opportunity to the Panthers.
The Cutters managed to hold them out with some good sliding defence forcing a mistake and on the back of a fine set and great kick by Shaun Nona, they marched down field.
Another Cutters error put them on the back foot and the Panthers made them pay when Matt Place fielded a grubber to score besides the posts. Josh Hall converted to give his side an early 6-0 lead.
In the 13th minute a slick backline move saw Kalifa Fai Fai Loa touch down in the corner.
A terrific Shaun Nona conversion tied the game up at 6-all.
The Cutters work was undone when an error coming out of their own end saw Sitaleki Akauola stroll over for a simple try.
Hall converted to make it 12-6 after 17 minutes.
The Cutters hit back through first gamer Izaac Thompson in the 22nd minute and Nona converted from the sideline again to make it 12-all.
A brilliant run by Cutters fullback Adam Quinlan got his side out of trouble and on the attack with 15 minutes left in the half but the Panthers held on.
A try to Cutters lock Chris Lewis got his side front for the first time after 30 minutes.
Nona's attempt hit the posts and the home side led 16-12.
Thompson dropped the ball with the try line beckoning in the 35th minute that would have opened up a handy lead for the Cutters.
The Cutters extended their lead in the 44th minute when halfback Drew Hutchison put in a grubber and collected the loose ball to touch down.
Nona added the extras to make it 22-12.
The Panthers looked to have hit back through fullback Malaki Watene-Zelezniak but it was called back for obstruction and to rub salt into their wounds, the Cutters scored down the other end through centre Taane Milne.
Nona converted to make it 28-12 with just under half an hour left in the match.
The Cutters seemed to have put their disappointing loss to the North Sydney Bears last week behind them and were getting better the longer the game went on.
Cutters fullback Adam Quinlan scored a brilliant solo try in the 55th minute to push his side further in front and Nona's conversion made it 34-12.
With 22 minutes remaining, Lewis charged onto the ball and crashed over for his second try of the afternoon to continue the onslaught for the Cutters who seemed to be scoring at will.
Nona converted to make it 40-12.
Milne crossed for his second try in the 65th minute after great lead-up work by Quinlan to hold up the defence before putting his centre in for the try.
Nona made no mistake and the Cutters were in full control, leading 46-12.
The Cutters were forced to defend their own line for the first time in a long time late in the game and were good enough to keep the Panthers out.
The Panthers managed a late consolation try in the 79th minute to Moses Leota, converted by Hall to make it 46-18.
Illawarra Cutters 46. Tries: Lewis (2), Milne (2), Hutchison, Faifai Loa, Thompson, Quinlan. Goals: Nona (7/8).
Penrith Panthers 18. Tries: Place, Leota, Akauola. Goals: Hall (3/3).