In front of a passionate and very vocal crowd of 46,000 at ANZ Stadium, the Panthers have bowed out of the 2014 finals race, going down to the Bulldogs 18-12 in a fierce 80 minute battle.
Overall our defence was solid and despite letting three tries in, we stopped a lot more from being scored. But we couldn’t get our attacking game together tonight, and we let too many opportunities pass us by. We had plenty of chances up near our line, but the Bulldogs defence proved too hard to break through, and we were unable to come up with the points.
The game was full of penalties and errors from both sides, but the Doggies simply outplayed us tonight. Here’s how the game went down.
The Bulldogs gave us a scare early after the ball bounced awkwardly off a Bulldogs bomb and bounced back into their hands, but a Josh Mansour tackled helped them lose it just before they got over the line.
The first try was a Bulldogs one, and it came 14 minutes into the game after they were awarded back to back penalties inside their own 10m line. After collecting the ball from dummy half, big James Graham charged hard at the line and dived straight through our back line to get the ball down under the posts. The conversion from Tim Lafai put the Doggies ahead 6-0.
Josh Jackson scored the second try for the Bulldogs in the 27th minute after the Panthers spilled the ball 20m out from the Doggies line. It was scooped up by Michael Ennis who sent it right to Josh Reynolds who threw a beautiful cut out pass to Josh Jackson who was unmarked, and he dodged a Penrith defender to run in and score. Lafai added the two, extending the Bulldogs lead to 12-0.
With 5 minutes until the half time break, Tony Williams was placed on report for a high shot on Josh Mansour. Thankfully, Josh was able to stay on the field and continue playing.
With less than 60 seconds left in the half we scored our first try!!! It came courtesy of some beautiful Matt Moylan footwork, after he collected a cut out pass from Jamie Soward and stepped straight through a hole in the Doggies defence to run the ball over the line. Soward converted to put Panthers on the board 12-6, as the half time siren sounded.
HALF TIME: 12-6 Bulldogs
The Panthers came out a lot stronger this half and for the first 10 minutes they dominated possession and had several attempts at their line. But it wasn’t long before the Doggies stepped up their game and came at us at full force once again.
In the 54th minute, Lewis Brown pulled off an incredible try-saving tackle, attacking Sam Perrett from behind and then spinning him 180 degrees to land on his back, where he was unable to get the ball down. Moylan dived in to help and make sure the ball stayed off the ground, but forced a goal line dropout after stripping the ball.
The Doggies scored their third try in the 57th minute after Greg Eastwood got a beautiful ball to Dale Finucane and he found a nice gap in our back line to dive through and score. The kick put the Bulldogs in front 18-6.
We came close to hitting back a few minutes later when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak dived for the line, but he was tackled and lost the ball before getting it down.
With just under 14 minutes remaining, Dean Whare had to be helped from the field after copping a nasty knock in a head clash with Sika Manu.
There was a little glimmer of hope for the Panthers with 8 minutes on the clock, when Soward put a high bomb over to the right side of the field and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak leapt into the air, collected the ball and broke away from a couple of Doggies defenders to sprint over the line. Soward converted to narrow the score to 18-12.
But the fairytale was not to be for the Panthers, and despite putting in 110% for the remaining minutes of the match, Penrith couldn’t get over the line, which meant the Bulldogs were off to the Grand Final.
FULL TIME: 18-12 Bulldogs
Panthers would like to thank all the members and fans who made the trek to Homebush tonight to cheer our boys on, and for your relentless support throughout the year.