The Panthers NSW Cup side have recorded a confidence-boosting 52-20 trial game win over the Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium.
AFL convert Josh Hall introduced himself to Pepper Stadium with an 8th minute try to open the scoring. Some fast hands on the left edge of the Panthers attack put him away for a 15-metre charge to the corner. Sam Clune slotted the sideline coversion for a 6-0 lead.
As the opening quarter of the game came to a close, the Bulldogs were enjoying the majority of possession and field position but the Panthers continued to aim up in defence. Starting centres Marli Sini and Ray Lesoa in particular were effective in rushing up and shutting down dangerous attacking play from the Dogs.
In the 23rd minute the imposing figure of Wellington Albert made a big break up the middle but lost the ball as he was pulled to ground 15 metres from the tryline.
A steady flow of errors began to creep into the game as the stifling heat took its toll on both side.
The Bulldogs finally took advantage of a gilt-edged opportunity with nine minutes left in the half as centre Jerry Leasi stepped his way around a defender and touched down. Fullback Ben Baker nailed the conversion to lock up the scores at 6-6.
The Panthers didn’t take long to hit back as Clune stepped his way into a gap and released Tyrone May, backing up from the NYC game, to spin over beneath the posts. Clune then knocked the coversion over for a 12-6 lead with three minutes to the break.
But it was the Bulldogs who had the final say in the first half as an overlap saw winger Abraham El-Zakhem score a converted try out wide.
HALFTIME – 12-12
Two minutes after the break the Panthers had the small but passionate home crowd on their feet with a scintillating try. Clune made a break on the right edge and offloaded to Tupou Sopoaga. Showing some silky skills, the forward put through a well-weighted grubber and fullback Brent Naden snaffled it to crash over. The successful conversion took the Panthers to an 18-12 lead.
In the 50th minute play was stopped as Bulldogs fullback Ben Baker was pulled down in an awkward-looking tackle and had to be stretchered from the field.
A repeat set in the 55th minute put the Panthers right on the attack and after spinning the ball wide, Chris Aunese-Scanlon found enough space on the wing to dive over. The attempted conversion was waved away but the Panthers led 22-12.
Penrith extended their lead courtesy of a Sopoaga try in the 59th minute. Hall used his superior leap to knock back a high ball, which was swooped upon by Sopoaga to stroll over untouched. The conversion made the score 28-12.
The Bulldogs were dropping off in defence and the Panthers made them pay with some nice hands on the right edge eventually sending Maliko Filino over to score. Soni Luke's conversion made it 34-12 with 18 minutes left in the game.
Suddenly the trickle was turning into a flood and next it was Naden feeding Marli Sini for a diving finish in the left corner in the 65th minute. Hall showed he has the full bag of tricks with a conversion from out wide to make the score 40-12.
NYC playmaker Jarome Luai was next to add himself to the list of tryscorers with 12 minutes to play. Fellow Holden Cup representative Dylan Edwards was successful with the conversion.
The Bulldogs hit back after a Panthers error in the 70th minute and Jake Kamire crashed over from close range. More respectability was added to the scoreboard with another Dogs try to Marcelo Monteyo in the 74th minute.
Peter Nay then iced the Panthers demolition job by diving over out of dummy half in the final minute of the game.
FULLTIME - Panthers 52-20