The desperate Panthers held on in testing conditions for a vital 20-16 win over the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
WATCH THE MATCH HIGHLIGHTS: http://bit.ly/NRLHlightsRd7
It was a messy opening with both sides guilty of handing over possession coming out of trouble. However it was Roosters fullback Latrell Mitchell who paid the price for his error as the Panthers pounced to open the scoring. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was on the end of some quick hands and dived over in the corner for the 6th-minute try. Jamie Soward slotted the sideline conversion for a 6-0 lead.
WATCH THE POST-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE: http://bit.ly/PressConfRd7
When Leilani Latu was caught in a textbook crusher tackle by Isaac Liu in the 10th minute, the Panthers elected to take the points and Soward did the honours to make it 8-0.
The Roosters were getting a roll on in attack and in the 19th minute the Panthers were caught napping down the short side on the last tackle. Despite seemingly having enough defenders to cover the raid, Mitchell somehow found his way over the tryline. Jackson Hastings nailed the conversion from out wide to reduce the deficit to two points.
A dropped ball from James Fisher-Harris gifted the Roosters more attacking possession and they expertly earned a repeat set in the 25th minute. However the Panthers scrambled and managed the hold them out on that occasion.
After a few more nervous moments, the Panthers headed downfield on the back of a penalty. With the Roosters line on the back foot, a skilful short ball from big man Suaia Matagi put Te Maire Martin away for the try. Soward was on target with the conversion and the Panthers led 14-6 after 31 minutes.
As the rain came down, the Roosters coughed up yet more ball at the back. In the 34th minute Panthers skipper Matt Moylan surged over the tryline on the right edge but the video referee sent down a ‘no try’ ruling for obstruction.
It proved to be a decisive moment as consecutive penalties piggybacked the Roosters downfield and from a quick tap, Blake Ferguson tossed attempted tackler Soward aside to score. Hastings couldn’t convert but the scoreboard read 14-10 with four minutes to play in the half.
The Panthers had the final attacking opportunities of the first period but couldn’t find their way through some stubborn Roosters defence.
HALFTIME – Panthers 14-10
In the 45th minute Isaah Yeo showed strength in the tackle to offload to Waqa Blake. The Panthers centre opened up the legs and burned Mitchell before weaving his way past Hastings for the try. Soward knocked over the simple conversion attempt for a 20-10 lead.
The Roosters looked like they would hit straight back as again they found space down the short side on the last tackle. Moylan was in position to save the day for the Panthers but he gave the Roosters a repeat set in the process. Next it was Martin who popped up just in time to take a clean intercept and streak away on a 40-metre burst.
While the Panthers couldn’t find more points, the Roosters were turning to basic improvisation to get theirs. In the 60th minute some haphazard play on the last tackle ended with Mitchell steaming through the middle to score under the posts. Hastings converted to make the score 20-16.
With ten minutes left in the content a deft Soward chip earned the Panthers a repeat set. Tyrone Peachey thought he had put Moylan in for the try but the referee managed to find a forward pass.
The Panthers kept pushing and again Soward earned another set with a well-placed chip. And another two minutes later. Sam McKendry was held up by some desperate defence as the clock ticked down.
With two minutes left the Panthers finally handed over possession as Peter Wallace was held up on the last tackle. Fortunately the Roosters handed it straight back.
The Panthers earned a differential penalty and despite one last turnover for good measure, they held on for the win.
FULLTIME – Panthers 20-16