Panthers rally to survive scare against Bulldogs

Viliame Kikau has stepped up to the plate for a Penrith side decimated by Origin call-ups to lead the Panthers to a 30-18 win over Canterbury.

With Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo forming a six-man Penrith contingent in Brad Fittler's NSW squad, the home game with the bottom-placed Bulldogs on Friday night loomed as a potential banana skin.

This time last year Ivan Cleary's men were upset by Wests Tigers but even without the nucleus of their team, Kikau ensured the majority of the 16,906 fans left BlueBet Stadium happy.

The Fijian back-rower has agreed to join Canterbury next year and showed his future teammates exactly what they are currently missing.

When he wasn't spoiling the Bulldogs' attack with his bone-rattling defence, he was cleaning up loose balls in the in-goal, and he even found time to barge past three defenders to score a first-half try.

The victory moves Penrith four points clear at the top of the NRL ladder.

There were some glimpses of hope for Canterbury, who launched a second-half comeback and at one point threatened to claim just their third win of the season.

In the week he was dropped by Fittler for the first time since he debuted for the Blues in 2018, Josh Addo-Carr grabbed a brace, combining with five-eighth Matt Burton on both occasions.

Burton scored a try of his own against his former club and his kicking game was particularly troubling for the Panthers' back three.

Penrith began in rapid fashion with Chris Smith and Dylan Edwards putting them out to a 12-0 lead with 15 minutes played, with Taylan May and Kikau strengthening their lead to 22-6 by halftime.

Canterbury's only try of the first half came when Edwards dropped a Burton bomb with Addo-Carr diving on a grubber on the next set to open his account for the night.

Addo-Carr added a second when Burton chipped over the Panthers' defensive line for the winger to regather and run 60 metres to score, before the latter crashed over to cut the Panthers' lead to just four points.

A try to interchange forward Jaeman Salmon and a penalty from debutant Kurt Falls got Penrith back in control with Canterbury unable to respond.