Panthers kick off 2013 with thrilling win
Saturday 9 February 2013 3:28 PM
Warm conditions greeted the teams at Bathurst's Carrington Park, with both sides taking some time to acclimatize to the conditions, and blow out the early year cobwebs. The match was played in four quarters to allow players breaks to re-hydrate and for the coaches to make changes to their squads. The opening quarter saw the Panthers muscle up in defence with their aggressive tackling forcing a number of errors from the Tigers. The Panthers attack lacked cohesion early with a new halves paring of Blake Austin and Lachlan Coote playing together for the first time.
The early stages of the match displayed great intensity and a fast pace from both sides. It wasn't until the 15th minute that the match saw the first try, with the Tigers crossing. Despite some good work and metres gained by the Panthers forwards the score remained 4 nil after the first quarter.
The second quarter saw the Panthers begin to click. A nice offload by Clint Newton to James Roberts who found open space set up Panthers debutant Etonia Nabuli to score his first ever try in rugby league. On the back of a solid platform laid by the Panthers forwards they begun to dominate play, Blake Austin started to stamp his authority on the match. He was able to make a line break through the middle of the park and also helped build pressure by forcing multiple line drop outs. The pressure proved too much for the Tigers as Panthers skipper for the night Geoff Daniela sliced through the defence to score. Austin then did it all himself with a powerful run from close range to give the Panthers a 16-4 lead at half time.
The second half bought some cooler conditions and the Tigers capitalized on a good spell of possession with two quick tries to level the scores. With the Tigers growing in confidence and momentum, it was crucial for the Panthers to strike back. Some nice clean, early ball got Roberts one on one and utilizing his blinding speed he was able to break the line and throw a ball inside to a supporting Lachlan Coote to score.
As the match headed into the final quarter both coaches made use of their extended squads. It was the Tigers who scored first to get back within 2 points and continue the see-sawing affair. The margin remained the same heading into the final 10 minutes. With the Tigers deep on attack and with the Panthers stretched in defence it looked as if Wests would score out wide until some great defence forced a loose pass from the Tigers. With the ball loose on the ground a flying Travis Robinson toed the ball forward three times and out-sprinted the Tigers defence to score a brilliant 70 metre individual try that had the crowd on their feet. Whilst this was a big play in the game the remaining 5 minutes continued to produce some amazing footy. In the space of 2 minutes the Tigers were able to score back to back tries and take the lead 32-28 with just 57 seconds remaining.
The Panthers refused to give in and with a short restart Mosese Pangai made a dazzling run beating what seemed like half the Tigers team. On the back of a quick play the ball the Panthers spread the ball to Roberts who had been troubling the defence all night and with just 33 seconds remaining he crashed over to level the scores. As the full time siren sounded Blake Austin stepped up to try and win the game, he calmly slotted the ball trough the posts and the Panthers emerged 2 point victors.
Despite the good result the trial provided head coach Ivan Cleary the opportunity to see a number of players get some game time. The match saw a number of boys play in the Panthers colours for the first time and also saw Nathan smith return from a long injury forced spell.
Panther skipper Geoff Daniela said he was " nervous but very honored to lead the boys tonight" and made mention of all the hard work in the pre-season looks to be paying off. James Roberts who was very impressive in his debut for the club said " I was happy to play my first game tonight, I was able to get into some good positions out there and all the boys played strongly and were able to finish off well".
A few minor injuries to Jeremy Latimore and Adam Docker will be monitored in the coming days but coach Ivan cleary thinks the team came through the match quite well injury wise