The Panthers have survived a nail-biting battle at Collegians Sports Ground this evening, beating the Illawarra Cutters 19-18.
In cold and wet conditions, a Tom Humble field goal won us the game which was probably one of our worst defensive performances to date. There were mistakes and handling errors throughout the match, we were careless and sloppy near our line and we really struggled to put any game plan into action.
We had a couple of late changes to the side with Tim Grant and Matt Robinson coming into the starting lineup, Nathan Smith moved from the bench to the second row, and Shaun Spence returned from injury. Ben Murdoch-Masila wasn’t able to take the field after coming down with a virus.
It took us a while to get going and for the first 10 minutes we were always two steps behind the Illawarra side. Some very poor defence from the Panthers handed the home side their first try 6 minutes into the game, when their centre sidestepped one of our boys and flew straight into a hole and over the line. The conversion was successful, so Cutters took a 6-0 lead.
This seemed to knock us into gear and slowly but surely we picked up the pace, got on the attack, and got over the line for our first try. In the 14th minute, Kevin Naiqama passed from dummy half, finding Tom Humble less than 10m out, and he dodged a Cutters defender before burrowing his way under a couple more to get the ball down. Wes Naiqama converted from in front to even the score 6-6.
A few minutes later we were in again! Hooker Kierran Moseley got a break on the halfway line and took off down the field, before getting the ball away to fullback Kieran Moss who took it the rest of the way and grounded it under the posts. Naiqama’s kick went straight through the uprights, and the Panthers took a 12-6 lead.
Then with less than 5 minutes until the halftime break, the Cutters went over again. Poor defence and laziness from our boys saw them push their way over the line, and with a successful conversion they had levelled the score 12-12.
The Panthers were slow to start this half as well, and like in the opening 10 minutes of the game, it cost them a try. 5 minutes in, several missed tackles and laziness saw the Cutters #13 break free from a tackle attempt, run through a gaping hole in our backline and straight over to score unopposed. The kick was on target so the home side once again took the lead 18-12.
For the next 15 minutes Penrith struggled to get anywhere near their end of the field, with the home side winning penalties and repeat sets, keeping the ball up their end. In the 59th minute we finally moved the game up our end and made the most of it, with Eto Nabuli getting the ball near the corner post before falling over the line to score, with a Cutters defender wrapped around his ankles. The sideline kick bounced off the uprights, so the score went to 18-16.
With 11 minutes on the clock the Panthers were awarded a penalty on our 20m line and we took the kick for two to even the score 18-18.
In the 74th minute Tom Humble booted a field goal to give Penrith a one point lead, so all we had to do now was play through the last few sets and hold the home side out. Which we did.
FULL TIME: 19-18 Panthers