The Panthers have put themselves back into the race for top spot after defeating the top-of-the-table Mounties at Pepper Stadium. After trailing 16-0 early, the Panthers responded to pour on the points and claim their second victory over Mounties this season.
The early exchanges saw the Panthers move the ball up the field however the Mounties defence held strong. That solid defence from Mounties led to a third minute intercept try to rising star Brenko Lee. Sam Duggan kicked the goal and Mounties were in front 6-0.
Mounties went back to back in the 6th minute of play. The away side pushed through the Panthers defence and Sam Duggan caught an offload a few metres out from the try line to touchdown. Duggan converted his own try and Mounties extended their lead to 12-0.
Mounties continued their dominant start with another try in the 12th minute. The visitors spread the ball to the right to Jeremy Hawkins who swerved through a gap and dived over next to the corner flag. Duggan missed the kick and the Panthers trailed 16-0.
The Panthers hit back with a try in the 16th minute. Kieran Moss passed the ball to the right to Brent Naden who drew in a couple of defenders and slipped the ball to Eddie Aiono who grounded the ball in the corner. Corey Harawira-Naera converted the try to bridge the gap to 10.
Penrith continued their fightback with a try in the 24th minute. Sam Scarlett took matters into his own hands and attacked the Mounties defence from close range, ducking and weaving his way passed defenders to score 10 metres to the right of the posts. Harawira-Naera kicked the goal, with Mounties in front 16-12.
Adrian Davis was taken from the field in the 28th minute with a cheekbone injury and played no further part in the game.
The Panthers were back on level terms with their third try of the afternoon in the 34th minute. Sam Scarlett provided a great ball to a barnstorming Chris Smith who stormed his way over to plant the ball down. Harawira-Naera’s conversion was successful and the Panthers took an 18-16 lead.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 18-16
A minute into the second half Mounties put themselves back in front. Joe Rokoqo dived over the try line from close range after fending off Panthers defenders. Josh McCrone kicked the goal and Mounties led 22-18.
The Panthers responded a few minutes later as they tested Mounties right-side defence with back to back sets in the opponent’s 20 metre zone. Maliko Filino got his name on the scoreboard after collecting a nice kick from Sione Katoa to score in the corner. Harawira-Naera missed the kick and the score was tied 22-22.
In the 57th minute Panthers capitalised on a glut of possession and a penalty close to the Mounties line when Harawira-Naera slotted a penalty straight through the posts to give the Panthers the lead 24-22.
Following the penalty kick, Rodney Coates limped off the field clutching at his knee. Brendan Attwood also suffered a leg injury a few moments later and was taken down the tunnel.
In the 65th minute Andy Saunders was on the receiving end of a big hit and was taken from the field to get treatment for a concussion. Following the tackle players from both sides came together, resulting in the referee’s decision to send Sam Anderson and Mounties forward Kyle O’Donnell to the sin bin.
The Panthers extended their lead in the 71st minute with a try to Kieran Moss. Penrith spent a few sets parked inside Mounties 20 metre zone heaping the pressure on the away side’s outside backs. The ball was pushed to the left and Moss slid in behind Mounties defenders to touchdown. Harawira-Naera converted the try and the Panthers took a 30-22 lead.
The Panthers were able to hold strong in the final minutes of the game and take out the game by eight points.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 30-22