Digital Image by Robb Cox © nrlphotos.com: :NYC Holden Cup Rugby League - Round 3; Penrith Panthers Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Penrith. Saturday the 22nd of March 2014.

Penrith’s Under 20’s are cementing themselves as serious competition contenders this year after a convincing 32-20 win over Cronulla today at Remondis Stadium.

It wasn’t a very pretty game with lots of mistakes and handling errors from both sides, but our boys showcased some good defence and their attacking game continued to improve through the match, and Coach Trent Barrett will head back home a happy man!

The match started out like a tennis rally, with the ball travelling from one end of the field to the other for the first 15 minutes of the game. The Panthers were first to break the yo-yo after challenging a penalty ruling for a ball strip in a tackle. The ref reviewed the play and awarded us possession, and after getting the ball up to our line, hooker Sione Katoa sent a quick pass into some open space in front of the uprights and Brendan Attwood ran onto it and barged his way over the line to score. Corey Harawira converted the try, and Penrith took a 6-0 lead.

The home side hit back a few minutes later after their fullback sent a grubber kick over to the right corner from the 20m line, and their unmarked winger chased and managed to plant the ball down just before it went dead. The kick was waved away to the left of the posts, so the score went to 6-4.

For the next 20 minutes Cronulla dominated possession and came very close to scoring on several occasions, but our defence held strong and despite a couple of mistakes we managed to keep them from scoring.

With less than two minutes on the clock the Panthers had their second try! Speedy centre Brent Naden got the ball on the 50m line and took off down the field. With Sharks defenders bearing down, he offloaded to halfback Sam Scarlett who dodged several defenders and broke through a couple of tackles before tossing the ball back to Solofa Silipa, who ran around a Cronulla player and over the line to score. Harawira kicked it straight through the posts and took the score to 12-4 as the halftime siren sounded.

HALF TIME: 12-4 Panthers

We had a cracking start to the second half and created another chance to score a few minutes in, when our boys challenged a penalty ruling again and won. We were awarded possession and got the ball to within metres of our line, but a handling mistake forced a turnover.

But it wasn’t long before we were up near our line again and with no errors we went over to score our third try of the day! Katoa got the ball from dummy half and flicked a brilliant pass to big Moses Leota, who spun out of a tackle and fell over the line to score, taking a couple of defenders with him. Harawira kicked it straight through the uprights, extending the Panthers lead to 18-4.

Cronulla wasn’t going down without a fight though, and they soon added to their total with another two tries. The first came courtesy of their big #16 who pushed his way through our backline and dragged a couple of our boys over the line with him. With the conversion, the score went to 18-10. Then in the next set, their fullback found some open space on their 30m line and ran around the Panthers pack to score. That kick went wide though, so the score moved to 18-14 with 20 minutes remaining.

Penrith came agonisingly close to scoring again with 17 minutes on the clock, when Sam Scarlett made it up to our line and stretched his arm out to get the ball down. The ref awarded the try but Cronulla challenged claiming he lost control before the grounding, and that was upheld by the video ref so play continued.

It didn’t matter though because Scarlett set up our next try, finding some space along our left side and sending the ball left to an unmarked Chris Smith who ran the ball over the line. Harawira missed the tricky sideline conversion, so the Panthers took a 22-14 lead with 11 minutes on the clock.

Not to be outdone, the home side responded with another try of their own through their #3 who barged his way through our backline to score. He was injured as he got the ball down though and had to be helped from the field. A successful conversion took the score to 22-20.

The Sharks then made a crucial error from the kickoff, dropping the ball on the 10m line which gave the Panthers possession and led to our next try. With six minutes remaining, winger Eddie Aiono got a beautiful ball to Brent Naden who danced past several Sharks players along the sideline, and got the ball down near the corner post. Harawira made the kick, giving Penrith an 8 point lead.

And just as the full time siren sounded, Eddie Aiono put the icing on the cake with a quick try over in the left corner! The kick was waved away but it didn’t matter, because the Panthers were going home with the win!

FULL TIME: 32-20 Panthers