The Illawarra Cutters have come away with a 22-18 victory at WIN Stadium. The Cutters survived a Panthers second half comeback in a game that could have gone either way. The Panthers came out from half-time a much improved side, but fell short of regaining top spot on the table.

It was a dominating start by the Cutters in the opening stages. The Cutters were the first to score in the 6th minute when Junior Vaivai found space after receiving a nice cut-out pass. He fended off the Panthers goal line defence and dived over the line. Blake Wallace missed the kick and the Cutters led 4-0.

Illawarra extended their lead in the 22nd minute on the right-hand side of the field. Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard barged his way over the top of the Panthers outside backs to score. Wallace kicked the goal and the Cutters were in front 10-0.

Panthers forward Stanley Waqa came from the field in the 28th minute with a left knee injury and didn’t return to the field.  

Five-eighth Adrian Davis was put on report for a late tackle on the Cutters kicker in the 32nd minute.

The Panthers went into the half-time break still in the game with a try in the 36th minute. Sione Katoa broke the line with a darting run provided a great ball to try scorer Sam Scarlett. Adrian Davis’ conversion was successful and the Cutters led 10-6.

HALF-TIME: 10-6 CUTTERS.

The Cutters scored the opening try of the second half in the 50th minute. Nathan Green grabbed the try off the back of an exchange of short passes on the right-hand side of the field. Wallace kicked the conversion which extended the Cutters lead to 16-6.

Penrith responded in the 56th minute with a try next to the goal posts. Sione Katoa threw a short pass close to the line to Chris Smith who ran though a big hold and planted the ball down before the rushing defence could stop him. Davis kicked the goal and the Cutters led 16-12.

The Panthers levelled the score with another try in the 58th minute. Ben Murdoch-Masila broke the line with a strong run and set up Kieran Moss to score 30 metres out from the try line. Davis’ conversion went through the posts and the Panthers led 18-16.

Illawarra hit back in the 61st minute, shifting momentum with a set that put them deep inside the Panthers half. The ball was spread to the right and found the hands of Nathan Green who scored his second try of the afternoon, burrowing his way through the Panthers goal line defence. Wallace converted the try and the Cutters were back in front 22-18.

The Panthers were on the verge of grabbing a late match sealing try in the last few minutes of the game however Illawarra’s goal line defence held on to claim the two competition points.

FULL-TIME: 22-18