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Dragons loss to end Panthers hype: Griffin

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/03/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Penrith coach Anthony Griffin is hopeful Saturday's heavy loss to St George Illawarra will bring an end to the pre-season hype that had the Panthers installed as premiership favourites.

The Panthers garnered plenty of attention in the summer after bookmakers rated Griffin's side alongside 2016 grand finalists Melbourne to lift the trophy at the end of the season.

But those expectations could force a re-think among pundits after the Dragons exposed a soft Panthers defence that conceded seven tries in wet conditions at UOW Jubilee Oval.

"It might take care of that (talk)," Griffin said after the match.

"That's not anything we speak about. We come here today and were looking forward to round one but we just got it really jumped early with that run of possession and never recovered.

"(It's) disappointing from a team point of view but anyway it's round one."

Of most concern will be a 36-10 missed tackle count, with second-rower Bryce Cartwright the main culprit with seven and another seven players missing three.

Starting forwards Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Trent Merrin carried the ball for a combined 63 metres off eight runs, as the Dragons' dominance sapped the Panthers of energy.

"(It's a) very disappointing way to start the year," Panthers skipper Matt Moylan said.

"We just turned over too much ball and they were very good when they had the ball."

Griffin allayed concerns Merrin, who was substituted twice during the match, was still bothered by a calf injury that prevented him from playing during the trials.

"No, he hasn't got any problem with it," Griffin said.

"He got caught in the first half there doing a lot of defence and that was his first game of the year.

"He hasn't got an injury.

"Second half we got him out there and when the game was done, we just thought we'd get Moses (Leota) out there and make sure he's alright.

"He's pulled up alright."

The Panthers face the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown in round two.

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