The Panthers have made it three from three in front of their home crowd at Sportingbet Stadium, coming away with a 12-6 win over the Raiders in wet and soggy conditions at the foot of the mountains.
The NRL win completed a spectacular day for the club with all three grades coming away victorious!
Tonight’s game was always going to be a big game for Panthers who were coming off last week’s disappointing loss to the Eels, and were aiming to keep their perfect home ground record alive. We had some of our key players back with Peter Wallace and Josh Mansour returning from injury, and Tim Grant and Sika Manu back in the starting side. It was also a big day for young Dallin Watene-Zelezniak who was making his first grade debut, and what a debut it would turn out to be, scoring the Panthers first try!
The game got off to a bit of a shaky start with play halted 7 minutes in, when Joel Edwards was knocked out cold after running into Dallin’s shoulder. He had to be stretchered from the field, and as his carers made their way to the sideline the rain started to fall at Sportingbet Stadium.
Within 2 minutes, it was torrential and the field was quickly turning into a mud bath. As players slid all over the field and balls flew out of hands, the Panthers still managed to edge their way closer to their goal line. Sika Manu was placed on report for a crusher tackle just before debutant Dallin came close to scoring our first try of the day and the first for his NRL career. It came after Jamie Soward put a kick high up from centre field, it bounced off a Raiders defender and into Peter Wallace, before ricocheting back to Moylan, who ran around a pack of defenders and offloaded to Dallin who dived over the line. But Wallace’s touch was ruled a knock on and the try is disallowed.
But it didn’t matter because a few minutes later he was over again, and no one was taking this one away from him! Peter Wallace sent a great pass to Dean Whare on his right, who then tossed the ball over a defenders head to Dallin who was waiting in some space on the wing, and he dived over in the corner. Moylan’s kick missed, so the home side took the lead 4-0, with 18 minutes gone.
The Raiders gave us a bit of a scare a couple of minutes later after a loose ball ended up in their try zone, but in the slippery conditions nobody could get their hands on it, so it was play on with Panthers in control.
For the next 20 minutes, play continued back and forth with both teams hammering away at their lines but not getting close enough to score any points. The rain eased with about 10 minutes to go, but the slippery conditions continued to wreak havoc, and a lot of balls were being dropped.
Then in the final minute of the match, a brilliant cut out pass from Jamie Soward in the centre of the field saw the ball fly over everyone’s heads out to an unmarked Josh Mansour on the wing, who beat a startled Canberra defender to the line for our next try. As the half time siren sounded, Moylan missed the tricky sideline conversion but the Panthers extended their lead to 8-0.
HALF TIME: 8-0 Panthers
The first 15 minutes of this half played out like the last 20 minutes of the first, with a lot of ball play from both sides without too many results. The Panthers looked like the dominant team though, forcing plenty of errors from the Raiders, and not having too many decisions go against them.
Then in the 65th minute, Penrith completely misread a Canberra play in the centre of the field and missed a few quick passes which ultimately sent fullback Anthony Milford into open space on their 40m line, before he offloaded to Paul Vaughan who ran in to score. The kick from in front took the score to 8-6.
But we made up for that 8 minutes later after having a few attempts at our line, we drew Canberra’s defence in, leaving Dallin completely open on the wing. When Wallace saw how much space DWZ had available, he sent a beautiful bomb over to him and he ran the ball over the line unopposed for his second try of the night! Sowie took the kick this time but it floated left and was waved away, so the Panthers took a more comfortable 12-6 lead with 8 minutes on the clock.
For the last 5 minutes of the match, Canberra forced three back to back goal line drop outs, returning the ball to them each time. The Panthers defence was put to the ultimate test, and it held strong giving us our third win of the season, and continuing our perfect record at home!
FULL TIME: 12-6 Panthers