Panthers NSW Cup coach Garth Brennan finally has something to smile about after posting his first win of the season at Sportingbet Stadium today, where his boys beat the Bulldogs 22-12.

We didn’t start too convincingly, with a lot of mistakes and some messy ball work, but by the end of the first half we had settled into a comfortable game plan, and we were seeing the results we’d been waiting three weeks for.

Towering Anthony Cherrington played his first game this year after finishing a suspension he copped during last year’s Grand Final, Regan Haika was promoted from Under 20’s to play on the wing, and Liam Ayoub was brought into the halves to cover for Isaac John who was moved up to first grade to play for the injured Peter Wallace.

The first 17 minutes of the match were scoreless as both sides pushed hard and attacked their lines, but it was the Bulldogs who scored first. Centre Tyrone Phillips stunned Penrith’s backline, after taking a short ball from centre Levi Dodd on the 10m line, and simply running through some open space to score behind the posts. The conversion was good and the visitors took an early 6-0 lead.

In the next play, Panthers fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak copped a high shot to the head and was taken off the field as a precaution. Bulldogs winger Kayne Brennan was placed on report over the incident.

Play continued for another 10 minutes with mistakes from both sides, but a lot of good defence at the same time. We got the ball up to our line and for the next few minutes we had several decent cracks at getting over, and then finally, Shaun Spence put our first points on the board! He positioned himself about a metre back from the line and patiently waited until the ball found his hands, before he burrowed his way over the line. Wes Naiqama converted, and Penrith had levelled the scores 6-6.

This seemed to give the Panthers a little bit of confidence, and we really started to take control of the game. A few minutes later, we had our second try! Watene-Zelezniak, who had been cleared to play after that head knock, came back onto the field on the wing, and after a dominant spell up our end, Leilani Latu sent the ball from the centre of the field out to the right, where it passed through several players before reaching Tom Eisenhuth, who gave DWZ a beautiful ball and just enough room to run the sideline and dive over to score. Naiqama made the difficult sideline conversion, and with a fewq minutes on the clock, the home side took the lead 12-6.

HALF TIME: 12-6 Panthers

The second half started like the first, with the first 16 minutes playing out with no change to the scoreboard. But this time it was the Panthers who drew first blood through interchange player Mitch Clark, who found some space through the middle and ran in next to the posts to score. Naiqama made it three from three, and the home side extended their lead to 18-6.

The Panthers were definitely dominating the game now, attacking hard and completing their sets to keep the ball up their end of the field. We were really pushing the Dogs to the limit today. But they weren’t giving up without a fight and caught us off-guard on our right side at the 55 minute mark, drawing our defenders in and sending winger Kayne Brennan over the line. The kick was on target, so the Bulldogs narrowed the score to 18-16.

But Penrith was determined to win this game, and we put the final nail in the coffin with 90 seconds on the clock, when Under 20’s recruit Regan Haika took a beautiful ball on the wing and sprinted towards the line, before army rolling over it to score! As the clock ticked down, Naiqama lined up for the kick but it was waved away, so the Panthers took the match 22-12.

FULL TIME: 22-12 Panthers