A penalty goal after the siren condemned the NSW Cup Panthers to a 22-20 defeat to Wentworthville at Pepper Stadium.
Steve Georgallis' 20-man side fought hard but ultimately it was the penetration of strong Wentworthville forwards and a last minute penalty goal that won them the match.
The opening minutes saw Panthers forwards meet Wentworthville with strong hit-ups. The machine-like driving of Sam McKendry and Moses Leota was instrumental in the early play.
This strong line of defence boasted Maliko Filino shutting down the likes of Kelepi Tanginoa. Consecutive sets and a kind grubber saw Penrith tackle Wentworthville behind their try line in order to restart play.
Back and forth sets between the two teams eventually saw the Magpies Kelepi Tanginoa and Rory O’Brian make significant runs. The opportunity for Wentworthville to score was shut down, however, by Penrith centre Maliko Filino. Penrith regained possession and it was a high kick by Sam Clune that allowed Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to score a try 7 minutes into the game. A successful conversion saw the Panthers out in front 6 – 0.
The Magpies responded with a strong line of defence that tackled Brent Naden into touch. A quick break and offload by Andrew Pearn to Bureta Faraimo saw Wentworthville almost score, however possession was quickly snatched back my Panthers fullback Brent Nadan.
Strong hit-ups by Corey Harawira-Naera graced Sam Elwin with a chance to kick high and to the left. Panthers Josh Hall was able to easily take the bomb and place the ball over the try line in the 19th minute. A missed conversion left Penrith in front 10 – 0.
The Magpies retaliated with urgency, with Bureta Faraimo denying Penrith from scoring a third try. Cody Nelson was able to draw a gap in Penrith’s defence, and an offload to Bevan French saw Wentworthville score their first try under the posts in the 25th minute. Luke Kelly’s conversion added to the Magpie’s score 10 – 6.
Wentworthville continued to place considerable pressure against a strong Panthers defence. After consecutive sets, the Magpies finally infiltrated Penrith territory. Faraimo was able to avoid tackles and maintain control of the ball before offloading it to Vai Toutai who put another four points on the board for his team in the 32nd minute. A missed conversion left the teams at 10-10.
The Magpies sailed on their newfound energy, with Cameron King snatching a loose ball to cross over. Kelly’s conversion placed Wentworthville in front 10 – 16 at halftime.
HALF TIME 10 - 16
The second half kicked off with Wentworthville presenting a united offensive front. The Magpies side enjoyed consecutive sets 30 metres from their own try line, with their forwards playing the ball quickly. It took only minutes for the Magpies to draw a hole in the Panthers defensive line, with winger Nick Walker crossing in the 49th minute. An unsuccessful conversion left the score at 10 – 20.
As the Penrith climate became cool and windy, Panthers took control of the match. The quick hands of Josh Hall saw him steal a stray ball and sprint almost half the field to score for Penrith. Klune was unable to convert, and left Penrith trailing 14 – 20 at the 55th minute.
The 57th minute saw Penrith’s powerhouse Moses Leota hit the bench with a leg injury. The men in pink maintained focus, with a dummy half scoot from Wellington Albert exciting the fans at Pepper Stadium.
Riding on newfound momentum, Penrith machined through consecutive sets. Panthers fullback Brent Nadan side stepped his way into an impressive break but was eventually stopped by the unforgiving Magpie forwards that drew a forward pass. Penrith were forced to cop a controversial tackle, and the Magpies line of defence regained possession.
The quick hands of Tyrone May allowed him to cross, and Panthers were finally rewarded for their resilient offensive line. A successful conversion by Zach Docker-Clay upped Penrith’s score to 20 – 20.
A sense of urgency took over both teams in the closing minutes of the match. Play travelled consistently up and down the field, but it was ultimately a last second penalty kick that allowed Wentworthville to scrape by with the win.
FULL TIME 20 - 22