The Panthers proved too strong for the Rabbitohs in the grand final re-match to continue their unbeaten start to the season with a 26-12 win at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.

With star playmaker and co-captain Nathan Cleary playing his first match since last year's grand final after undergoing a shoulder reconstruction and James Fisher-Harris and Liam Martin returning from injury, the premiers got off to a flying start and were never headed.

It was a high quality match but Penrith's scrambling defence repeatedly denied Souths, with fullback Dylan Edwards involved in a number of trysaving tackles.

Match snapshot

Play of the game

Taylan May's second try in the 49th minute was the result of quick hands by Panthers playmakers Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai to get the ball to strike second-rower Viliame Kikau but the rookie winger still had a lot of work to do himself. Receiving the pass from Kikau near the Rabbitohs line after the Panthers decided to run the ball on the last tackle, May pushed off Campbell Graham and ducked under the attempted tackle of Latrell Mitchell. With Penrith awarded an eight-point try after May was struck in the face by the boot of Lachlan Ilias, the try enabled them to take a 20-6 lead.

What's next

The Panthers meet the Bulldogs at CommBank Stadium next Sunday night, while the Rabbitohs host the Dragons on Saturday night at Accor Stadium.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary should have Sean O'Sullivan (foot) available but it remains to be seen how he will use him after Nathan Cleary made a successful return at halfback against Souths.

Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou is likely to need to find a replacement for prop Mark Nicholls after he limped from the field in just the second minute with a high ankle sprain.

Rookie halfback Lachlan Ilias was placed on report after striking Taylan May in the face with his boot as he tried to stop the Penrith winger scoring his second try.

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