Both teams went into this clash at Morry Breen Oval looking to improve on their round one performances. The Panthers went down to the Newcastle Knights 24 – 14 and Wyong were defeated by the North Sydney Bears 34 points to 6. The Panthers met Wyong in a trial match last month and we ended up convincing winners 52 points to 4 however things panned out very differently this time around.
The game started with the Panthers with all the attacking opportunities. Kieran Mosely looked dangerous from dummy half early however Wyongs goal line defence proved too strong. Wyong managed to capitalise on their first real attacking opportunity inside our half through a well placed grubber kick which caught Dallin Watene-Zelezniak napping at the back. Darren Nicholls dived on the ball just before the dead ball line to make it 4 – 0. Nicholls converted his own try from 10 metres in from the touchline and Wyong took an early 6 nil lead.
The Panthers then had all the ball and through a few well placed short kicks at the line by Daniel Foster we managed to force three repeat sets on Wyong’s line. Wyong’s defence eventually cracked and a short ball at the line saw big Sam Anderson crash his way over for his first of the night. The conversion was slotted from Will Smith just to the right of the uprights and the score was locked up at 6 all.
A light drizzle then started to come down which made the handling tough for both teams. The Panthers were eventually penalised for a play the ball infringement and Wyong opted to take the penalty goal from 30m out right in front to take the lead 8 – 6.
The Panthers managed to hit right back with a crucial try on the brink of half time. Nathan Smith took the ball to the line and popped a beautiful offload out the back to Regan Campbell Gillard who showed great strength and even better reach to plant the ball down over the line. The conversion was successful from Will smith and the Panthers went into half time leading 12 points to 8.
It was all Wyong in the opening stages of the second half. Alex Langbridge took the ball from dummy half and showed brilliant footwork beating a few tired middle forwards to lock it up at 12 all. The conversion was good from Darren Nicholls and Wyong took the lead 14 – 12.
Wyong didn’t waste anytime with their second of the half going 70m on the set after the kick off and through some swift backline movement out to their right hand side Dale Clacherty crossed over. The conversion was unsuccessful from the sideline and Wyong found themselves in front 18 points to 12.
Wyong continued their early second half onslaught through former Australian front row forward Mark O’meley who crashed over underneath the posts. The conversion was good from Nicholls in front and Wyong went out to a 24 – 12 lead.
It didn’t take long for Wyong to go over again. Darren Nicholls crossed for his second of the night. The little number seven showed a promising swerve to get through the defensive line. He converted his own try and Wyong took a commanding 30 – 12 lead with 13 minutes to go.
The Panthers finally managed to maintain some field possession which saw us hit straight back with Sam Anderson. A well timed pass from Kieran Moseley put Sam over underneath the posts. Will Smith missed the conversion from in front so the score remained Wyong 30 – Panthers 16.
The game then completely turned around with the Panthers dominating field possession and the ruck. A few offloads from our big men saw Sam Anderson cross for his third of the match. A great reward for the Panthers clear standout player on the field tonight. The conversion was good this time from Will smith and Wyong lead 30 points to 22.
Everyone in the crowd could sense a late come back by the Panthers, down by only 8 points with 5 minutes remaining the Panthers then flew down the field and scored out wide through Tom Eisenhuth. With under a minute on the clock we opted not to kick the goal to bring on a showdown finish but Wyong’s defence held strong on the final play of the game and they managed to hold onto the lead.
FULL TIME: Wyong 30 – Panthers 26.