The Panthers have notched up their second win of the season in spectacular style, defeating the previously unbeaten Magpies 42-22 at Ringrose Park. Wes Naiqama had an exceptional game, kicking 7 from 7 goals and scoring 2 tries, but overall the win came down to sheer determination and 100% effort from everyone on the field.
We were quietly confident heading into the match after confirmation during the week that flying Fijian Eto Nabuli and speedy half Luke Capewell would be returning from injury for the side. The news got even better on Saturday night when big prop Tim Grant became available for selection and was named in the starting line-up. This was the strongest team we’d have on the field so far this year.
We got off to a cracking start and in the first set we had the ball up to our 10m line. After a few attempts at getting over, a goal line drop out gave us another set of six and we made the most of it, getting the first try of the day.
It came courtesy of a beautiful cross-field run from winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who offloaded to Wes Naiqama in the centre of the field, and he then stepped around a couple of Magpies defenders to run in under the posts. Naiqama converted his own try and Penrith took an early 6-0 lead.
For the next 10 minutes, the Panthers dominated possession and rarely let the ball get passed the half way line, and after hammering away at Wenty’s back line we finally broke through when Naiqama got a brilliant ball to Eto Nabuli on the wing, and the Fijian sprinted up the sideline to get the ball down, leaving several defenders in his wake. Naiqama’s conversion was on target again, and the Panthers extended their lead to 12-0, with 21 minutes until half time.
Over the next 5 minutes the home side stepped it up a notch and finally got the ball down their end of the field. Using brute force, they pushed their way towards their line and after a couple of very close attempts their big #10 Junior Paulo barged his way over to score, dragging a couple of Penrith players with him. The kick was good, and the score went to 12-6.
They backed that up a few minutes later with another try, after their halfback put a bomb up to the right side of the field, Penrith hands touched it but fumbled and Magpies centre Ryan Morgan was there to pick it up and run it over in the corner. The sideline conversion was successful and the home side had levelled the score 12-12 with 12 minutes on the clock.
The Panthers came under a bit of pressure for the next 6 minutes with Wenty coming very close to crossing their line, but our defence held and we managed to keep them out. A lose ball forced a turnover and Penrith were back on the attack. We made good ground with our set and soon had our next try!
After making our way up to our 10m line, Naiqama flicked a pass left to Isaah Yeo, who offloaded beautifully to DWZ who was waiting on the wing, and he ran around a couple of defenders to ground the ball behind the posts. Naiqama made it 3 from 3 with his conversions, and Penrith once again had the lead 18-12, with 4 minutes on the clock.
The home side kept possession for the remainder of the half, but Penrith’s defence was outstanding and they made very little ground with the ball. With less than 10 seconds on the clock, Leilani Latu was placed on report for a high tackle which saw Wenty’s #12 taken off the field as the half time siren sounded.
HALF TIME: 18-12 Panthers
Penrith opened the scoring 3 minutes into the half in spectacular fashion after DWZ picked up a loose ball on the sideline on the Magpies 30m line and took off down the field, sprinting 30m before offloading to Luke Capewell on his inside, who ran the last 40m alone to score unopposed. Naiqama was on target again, and Penrith extended their lead to 24-12.
But the home side wasn’t about to let us run away with the game that easily, and in the next play they scored again, catching our left side off guard and sending their #11 through a hole in our back line. But the conversion missed, so the score went to 24-16.
We had another close call off the next play when Naiqama dropped a catch and handed the Magpies possession again. But a misguided pass saw the ball dribble over the sideline, and it was the Panthers ball. Naiqama redeemed himself a few minutes later when he intercepted a Magpies offload that would have undoubtedly led to a try.
Wenty continued to attack our left side and eventually got over the line, drawing our wingers off the sideline before their halfback ran behind the got the ball down. The conversion added another two to their score, and the home side was slowly creeping back into contention 24-22, with 20 minutes remaining.
Penrith was determined not to let this one slip through their fingers and over the next 5 minutes they drove hard at their line. After searching for options and a potential hole in Wenty’s back line, it was Sam Anderson who eventually got close enough to break through after being tackled close enough to the line to stretch his arm out and over to score! Naiqama certainly wasn’t going to miss the kick from in front, and we took the score to 30-22.
A few moments later, big Eto Nabuli intercepted a Magpies pass on their left side and took off towards our goal line. He was tapped by a defender but managed to offload to Tom Eisenhuth, who sent the ball to our left wing where DWZ was ready and waiting. He then got a nice cut away pass to Naiqama on his inside, and he ran into score unopposed. Converting his own try he took the Panthers lead to 36-22 with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
For the next 7 minutes, both sides gave it everything they had, with the Magpies desperately trying to reach their line, and Penrith defending fiercely. A lapse in judgment by the home side gave the Panthers their final try, and effectively hammered the nail into the coffin. After driving the ball up to our line, speedy fullback Will Smith ducked and weaved through several defenders and eventually found enough space to scoot through and over the line. Naiqama continued his perfect kicking run and made it 7 from 7, and took the Panthers to an unbeatable lead of 42-22, with 90 seconds until full time.
FULL TIME: 42-22 Panthers