The side defeated former giants Avatiu Eels 22-6 in the feature match of the opening round played under soggy conditions at Victoria Park on Saturday.
In the other Senior A match, Arorangi Cowboys thumped Titikaveka Bulls 82-31 at Raemaru Park.
The Panthers looked sharper of the two teams especially in their finishing, in the main clash.
The Eels created opportunities through their hardworking forwards but their backline which had some big names in Lai Rogorogoivalu, Vahe Leki and Tevita Niusama were unable to provide the finishing touches.
The home team struggled earlier in the match but managed to find the rhythm to kick off their title defence campaign with a morale boosting win.
The slippery conditions didn’t help either side as players struggled with possession.
The visitors were the first to score: a three-pointer from Leki to give them an early 3-0 lead. Minutes later, the Eels capitalised on another Panthers error, and Leki extend the lead to 6-0.
The Eels made some decent breaks but weren’t clinical with their finishes, thanks to the Panthers defenders who stood tall.
Some individual brilliance from Panthers centre Tua Ravula caught the Eels defenders napping as the national Sevens rep sprinted to touch down a loose ball under the post.
The Eels came fired up in the second spell and kept hitting the Panthers wall in an attempt for a break to score a try.
Their relentless effort paid off a couple of times when their forwards managed to squeeze through. But the lack of support from their backline players at the crucial moments of the match ruined the chances they created.
The Panthers were smarter. They used their backline players well, especially in counter attack. After a string of passes, the Panthers found Ravula free on the flank and he dived over in the corner for his second try. The Panthers extended their lead to 14-6.
The Eels managed a try but it was disallowed by the referee who copped criticism from the fans for making a number of controversial calls in the match.
The Panthers were down by a player for 10 minutes after new recruit Feleti Iona was sinbinned for interference but the Eels failed to take advantage of the situation.
In the final 10 minutes, nippy winger Kave Mocedike ensured the win for the Panthers after scoring a try in the corner before Iona sealed the 22-6 win with a successful penalty kick at the hooter.
The Cowboys after their massive 82-31 win over the Bulls leads the points table. The side led 38-0 at the break.
Takuvaine Reds were on bye over the weekend and will play their first match of the season this weekend.