Penrith Panthers NYC v Dragons NYC, WIN Stadium, 27th March. Photo by Jeff Lambert (Penrith Panthers)

In a game largely dominated by rugged defence, the NYC Panthers scored an impressive 28-12 victory over the Dragons at WIN Stadium.

Panthers coach Cam Ciraldo made only one change to the side named on Tuesday, with Braidon Burns dropping out and replaced by Jake Ennis.

The Dragons opened the scoring in the 9th minute with speedster Matt Dufty streaking away on a 70-metre break through some back-peddling defence. Paora Kemp nailed the conversion for a 6-0 lead.

The Panthers enjoyed a wealth of attacking opportunities but for some time couldn’t make the final plays stick. Jarome Luai grounded a Nathan Cleary grubber but was penalised for being offside, while minutes later Fuimanu Enese touched down in the corner but the play was called back for a forward pass.

They finally cracked the line in the 25th minute as Dylan Edwards was put through a yawning gap with a deft Luai pass. The fullback crashed over and Cleary nailed the conversion to lock the score up at 6-6.

After an error from Dragons fullback Kemp, the Panthers began a set in prime attacking territory and a few plays later, Corey Waddell dived over for a 31st minute try. Cleary’s conversion sailed between the sticks and the visitors claimed a 12-6 lead.

However the Dragons hit back as Luciano Leilua steamrolled his way through the defence to score four minutes before the break. Kemp’s conversion levelled the scores as the two sides headed to the sheds.

HALFTIME – 12-12

The Panthers had opportunities to break the deadlock early in the second half but slippery hands on the edges undid their good work.

Ratu Tuisese finally got across the line, just, in the 57th minute as he reached out in a three-man tackle to touch down. Cleary was on target with the conversion attempt and the Panthers were out to an 18-12 lead.

The taste of success clearly got the Panthers fired up and they struck again from their next set. A beautiful offload put Cleary away, before the ball found its way to Edwards, then finally Tyrone May. The Penrith lock dived over to complete a gorgeous passage of play for the Panthers. Cleary’s conversion pushed the score out to 24-12.

Classy centre Rob Jennings iced the result with a try in the corner with five minutes left in the contest. Cleary’s attempted conversion was waved away but the Panthers led 28-12.

FULLTIME – Panthers 28-12