In front of almost 12,000 fans at ANZ Stadium, the Panthers have put in an impressive performance to beat the Bulldogs 22-16, to cement their spot in the top four for another week.
There was a lot of hype in the lead up to this game with both sides coming off two losses, the Panthers having to shuffle a few players around to replace Peter Wallace, and young Will Smith making his NRL debut.
We also had wingers Josh Mansour and Dave Simmons making their long awaited return from injury.
Overall it was one of our best defensive performances all year with the boys digging deep to keep the Bulldogs scoreless in the first half. As Coach Ivan Cleary said during the week, he and the boys were drawing a lot of inspiration from our injured Captain, who played out an entire game against the Sharks with a ruptured ACL.
It was a tense start to the match with emotions spilling over in the first five minutes of the match, and a little bit of push and shove resulting in a penalty for the Panthers. We made the most of it and after coming agonisingly close to scoring through Dave Simmons on the wing, we then made it over when James Segeyaro dived under a group of Bulldogs players to get the ball down under the posts. Jamie Soward converted from in front to give Penrith a 6-0 lead.
Both teams were defending extremely well and despite making good ground with the ball, neither side could get over the line for points.
In the 21st minute, Matt Moylan put in a spectacular try saving tackle when he chased down Chayse Stanley who was sprinting towards the line and managed to drag his arm over the sideline before he got the ball down.
In the Panthers next set, we lost Elijah Taylor to a knee injury after he stepped awkwardly while collecting a pass. He had to be stretchered from the field, and early indications suggested he had done his ACL.
Play continued and the Bulldogs had another shot at their line, but their try attempt was knocked back after the video ref ruled obstruction.
The Bulldogs were denied another try in the 26th minute when Tim Lafai dived over the line, but when the video ref checked it he found he’d lost the ball mid-air before getting it down, so play continued.
HALF TIME: PANTHERS 6-0
The second half began in almost identical fashion to the first, with Segeyaro crossing for a try 5 minutes in. Jamie Soward put a grubber kick in from the 10m line which bounced into a Bulldogs defender and into the arms of Chicko, who dodged a few players and dived over to score! Soward sent the ball straight through the uprights for the conversion, extending Penrith’s lead to 12-0.
We had our third try in the 51st minute after a Bulldogs fumble gave us a repeat set from 20m out. After drawing the Doggies defenders in, we sent the ball out wide to Josh Mansour who was unmarked on the wing and had plenty of room to jog the ball over the line. Soward’s kick drifted to the right of the posts, do the score went to 16-0.
10 minutes later we were over again thanks to a beautifully timed ball from Soward who put Matty Moylan into a hole and over the line to score! With the conversion, the Panthers took a 22-0 lead, with 16 minutes remaining.
In the 67th minute the Bulldogs finally got over the line when Tim Lafai found some space on the wing and dived through a couple of our boys to get the ball down. The kick was waved away though, so the score went to 22-4.
They backed that up with another one in the 75th minute when Sam Kasiano was handed the ball from about a metre out and he jumped over a Panthers defender to army roll over and get the ball down. The conversion was on target, narrowing the score to 22-10.
In the final minute of the match Trent Hodkinson crossed for the Bulldogs third unanswered try but it wasn’t enough, and the Panthers had held on for the win!
FULL TIME: Panthers 22-16
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