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The Penrith Panthers began their title defense of The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup with a hard-fought 18-12 victory over the North Sydney Bears at BlueBet Stadium, after shaking off a slow start.

New coach Ben Harden guided the Panthers to their first win of the season, taking over the reins from Peter Wallace who was promoted to the NRL coaching staff in 2023. Despite a competitive start from the North Sydney side, they were unable to hold on to their early lead after Jesse Marschke opened the scoring.

The Panthers responded with a quick brace of tries from Tyrone Peachey and Isaiah Iongi, with Peachey’s spectacular effort including a flick pass and a back-and-forth exchange with winger Tom Jenkins. Halfback Kurt Falls successfully converted both tries from the touchline, giving the home side a 12-6 lead at halftime.

In the second half, Penrith’s dominance continued as Matt Eisenhuth set up five-eighth Jack Cogger for a close-range try, with Falls adding the easy conversion. North Sydney mounted a comeback with Zach Dockar-Clay scoring a try, but it was not enough to overcome the Panthers’ lead.

The Bears were unable to score in the closing minutes, and the Panthers controlled possession to secure the victory.