Panthers Dominate Hamilton Trial
Saturday 16 February 2013 7:36 PM
After 5 days in New Zealand, game day at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton arrived. Bathed in sunshine and the field in excellent condition that Panthers were aiming to make it back to back trial wins. Several changes were made to the squad that played the previous week, with Lewis Brown, Wes Naiqama, Dean Whare, James Segeyaro and Tom Humble all playing for the first time in Panthers colours.
It was the Warriors who opened the scoring under somewhat fortuitous circumstances. The Panthers defensive pressure troubled the Warriors early, they were rushed on their last tackle option and offloaded the ball to Shaun Johnson who then produced a superb chip and chase, regather and a second kick that bounced into the wingers hands.
The Panthers continued to get off their line quickly and were able to force a number of errors. Good patient build up by the forwards who were led strongly by Tim Grant and Sam McKendry up front got the team in good field position and on the 14th minute mark some nice passing, keeping the ball alive got the ball to Lewis Brown who beat a couple of defenders and as he was heading to the try line he passed to a flying Josh Mansour who crossed in the corner, Walsh with the sideline conversion put the Panthers up 6-4.
Continued disciplined, and mistake free footy had the Panthers winning the battle for field position and a nice shift and early ball from Coote to Naiqama saw him bust through the Warriors defence, he calmly drew the fullback and found Brown supporting up the middle and he scored under the sticks to take the score to 12-4.
Due to the warm conditions the players took a drink break each 20 minutes, this also provided head coach Ivan Cleary a chance to see more players get a run, Jeremy Latimore, James Segeyaro, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Humble and Nigel Plum entered the game. The only bad news for the Panthers in the opening 20 minutes was a leg injury that forced Luke Walsh from the field.
Humble replaced Walsh at halfback and with his first involvement in the game Nigel 'the hit man' Plum levelled the Warriors fullback, causing a collective groan that reverberated around the stadium from the 10,000 plus crowd. Aggressive running and tackling particularly by the forwards continued to result in a number of forces errors and on the 27 minute mark a towering bomb that was taken at the same time the Panthers defence arrived saw Naiqama put a big hit on, dislodging the ball. Brown was on hand to pick up the ball and with cover defence coming at him he athletically dived for the corner, grounding the ball before going over the sideline to push the Panthers out to a 16-4 lead.
With the confidence levels high, and continuing to complete their sets the Panthers crossed again in the 35th minute as Simmons scorched down the sideline after a nice cut-out pass, Naiqama added the extras making the lead 18. Another line break by Brown just before halftime saw him link up with Naiqama who fended off 4 Warriors in a powerful run towards the line, however he wasn't able to ground the ball, being held up. At the break the Panthers remained 22-4 leaders.
The second half bought numerous changes to both sides, Daniela, Austin, Segeyaro, Travis Robinson and Docker all entering the game, with Austin spending time at left centre. It was the Warriors who started the second half the strongest, on the back of a penalty they crossed out wide to bridge the gap. As the game entered the last 25 minutes, and with the Warriors attacking, an errant pass hit the ground and Coote pounced, scooping the ball up and racing 60 meters untouched to bring the score to 28-8. The Warriors responded with a try out wide to peg the margin back.
The match headed into the final 20 minutes and again more changes were made, with Whare, Coote, Grant and Mansour coming off. This saw Naiqama shift to fullback, Tighe re-entered the game, resulting in Austin moving to five eighth. In the final 10 minutes both sides crossed for one more try, Daniela on the end of a nice movement by the Panthers which saw Plum find a gap and with 4 Warriors on him, pop an offload which went quickly through several sets of hands for Daniela to score in the corner.
The final score ended up Panthers 32 Warriors 18. The win was set up on the back of disciplined football and aggressive defence, with the Panthers line speed very quick, forcing a number of errors. The team played with good cohesion considering the amount of new players, and the kicking game from the halves found lots of open space to turn the Warriors back three around constantly.
Speaking to Panthers skipper, Kevin Kingston after the game he put the win down to, “Defence, we were strong early on defensively and forced them into a few errors” He also made mention of the positive impact of the new recruits, “The new guys have added a great harmony to the group, and the positive team aspect there is the defence, if you trust and respect each other the defence will be good.” New recruit Dean Whare spoke about the enjoyment of playing his first match for the Panthers, “It was good to get out on the field and play my first game for the Panthers, and at Hamilton with all my family there, I’m looking forward to the season.” He also talked about wanting to nail the fullback spot, “I’ve been training there all pre-season and I’m really trying to master that position.”