In stifling heat, the Panthers NYC side has pulled off a late comeback to beat the Bulldogs 28-24 at Pepper Stadium.
Soni Luke opened the scoring in the home side’s first set as the Dogs defence failed to handle his grubber. The Panthers hooker recovered the fumbled ball to touch down to the right of the uprights. Dylan Edwards missed the conversion but the Panthers led 4-0 in the 4th minute.
The defending NYC premiers looked destined to score again from close range in the 10th minute but Kaide Ellis lost the ball over the tryline. Panthers winger Daniel Brown sprinted down the right flank three minutes later for a spectacular diving finish, only to discover his foot had brushed the sideline a few metres from the in-goal.
The Bulldogs hit back in the 15th minute as prop Lachlan Lee showed strength in the tackle to spin and plant the ball beside the posts. Halfback Zac Greene slotted the conversion for the Dogs to take a 6-4 lead.
They went back-to-back as an overlap and some slick hands sent winger Thomas Harvey away to score in the corner. The conversion attempt was successful and the Bulldogs led 10-4 after 21 minutes.
As Panthers coach Cam Ciraldo made a host of changes at the drinks break, Edwards moved into the halves and almost immediately had an attempted kick charged down. Bulldogs centre Kiko Manu recovered the ball and streaked away to score. With the successful conversion, the Bulldogs led 18-4 in the 29th minute.
The Panthers took advantage of another Bulldogs fumble in the in-goal as Nick Greenhalgh dived on a loose ball to score three minutes later. He then slotted the conversion to make the score 18-10.
Cameron Collins finished off a classy Panthers try which was sparked by a linebreak on the left edge in the 35th minute. Greenhalgh knocked the conversion over to reduce the Bulldogs lead to just two points.
Having shifted to fullback, Penrith’s Braidon Burns made a clean break up the middle on the cusp of halftime. Bulldogs fullback Joshua Bergamin made a try-saving tackle but was sin-binned for trying to delay the play-the-ball. From the ensuing play Thomson Tuigamala became the second Panthers player to lose the ball over the tryline.
HALFTIME – Bulldogs 18-16
As the heat clearly began to take its toll the Panthers were sloppy in the opening minutes of the second half, committing a number of errors and giving the Bulldogs some golden attacking opportunities. However a combination of some desperate scrambling defence and some loose handling from the Dogs meant the score remained unchanged.
The Panthers earned a repeat set in the 58th minute after a deft grubber from Reed Izzard rolled into the Bulldogs in-goal. However they couldn’t find the decisive play they needed and their next set finished with another turnover.
The constant interchanges meant the play from both sides degenerated as the minutes wore away. By the time the players took a drinks break in the 60th minute, a completed set was hard to come by.
Finally the exhaustion told as the Dogs made an incisive break in the 62nd minute and Josh Farrant dived over next to the posts. The successful conversion made the score 24-16.
The Panthers weren't going to die wondering and a 67th minute linebreak saw Peter Scanlon charge 60 metres for a try beneath the posts. Corey Waddell kicked the simple conversion to close again with two points.
Ten minutes later Penrith took the lead as the impressive Tuiese Emori dived over in the corner. The conversion was well-hit and the Panthers suddenly led 28-24 with three minutes to play. A couple of errors brought the match to a close.
FULLTIME - Panthers 28-24