Penrith Panthers NSW Cup  v North Sydney Bears, Pepper Stadium, Penrith. Photo by Jeff Lambert (Penrith Panthers)

The Panthers were off the pace in the wet as they suffered a 28-6 Intrust Super Premiership defeat to Wyong Roos at Morry Breen Oval on Sunday.

Panthers coach Steve Georgallis welcomed some big game experience to his outfit as he named both Elijah Taylor and Jeremy Latimore in his starting side. Ben Garcia and Rodney Coates dropped out of the squad he named early last week.

The Panthers were caught napping at the kick-off as they let the ball bounce over the sideline. From the ensuing possession Wyong playmaker Omar Slaimankhel found the perfect cross-field chip for winger Charlie Taylor to snaffle and score. After only four minutes the Panthers hadn’t touched the ball and were behind 6-0.

It got worse soon after as Josh Hall spilled the pill making Penrith’s first hit-up. Fortunately, after some desperate defence from the Panthers, the winger redeemed himself with a flying leap to earn a relieving penalty.

However the errors continued to stack up for the Panthers and from a messy set coming out of trouble, Matt Place sent his kick out on the full to give Wyong yet more attacking possession. An offload in the tackle from prop Paki Afu and some quick hands sent Chris Centrone over for the try. The conversion was waved away but the Roos led 10-0 after 16 minutes.

Five minutes later it was the Roos’ other centre Dominic Reardon getting in on the act with a try out wide. Once again the conversion was unsuccessful but Wyong was out to a 14-0 lead.

Within a couple of minutes, heavy rain hit Morry Breen Oval and the dropped ball soon followed with both team guilty of consistently turning over cheap possession.

In the 31st minute the Panthers finally got some field position and turned it into points. A loose pass was picked up by Corey Harawira-Naera who showed some slick footwork and change of pace to step out of a tackle and reach out to score. Hall nailed the conversion to reduce the deficit to eight points.

As the rain continued and the match descended into some midfield grind, Sitaleki Akauola came up with an error in the tackle and left the game soon after nursing an arm injury.

HALFTIME – Wyong 14-6

A dubious strip penalty to the Roos put them back on the attack soon after the break but they couldn’t find a way through some physical Panthers defence. An Elijah Taylor error wasted some rare attacking possession for the away side while down the other end George Jennings rushed up and saved the day for the Panthers.

It was almost a comical scene in the 56th minute as Panthers centre Sam Clune seemed to forget former teammate Chris Smith is now with Wyong, and promptly passed him the ball. The backrower happily accepted the gift and broke clear on a 40-metre charge before being rounded up.

In attack the Panthers were looking disjointed and increasingly frustrated by their inability to break the Wyong line. Their discipline in defence was also coming into question and Cornish kicked a penalty goal in the 66th minute to push Wyong’s lead out to 16-6.

As time wound down, the Panthers began to push the pass but couldn’t make it stick. A turnover from Andy Saunders gave the Roos the chance to seal the game and they didn’t disappoint. From close range backrower Jai Ingram found a yawning gap and strolled over. Cornish kicked the simple conversion attempt to make it 22-6.

Wyong big man Paki Afu then iced the victory with a simple try beside the posts with seconds left on the clock.

FULLTIME – Wyong 28-6