The ISP Panthers just couldn't find the winning try in a 28-24 loss to Wentworthville Magpies at Ringrose Park on Sunday.
Steve Georgallis had a number of changes to his line-up following the midweek departure of Jamie Soward to the London Broncos and the inclusion of Suaia Matagi and Sitaleki Akauola, both originally named to play in the NRL clash with the Tigers on Saturday.
The visitors finished the game with only two fit reserves after injuries to Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and Sitaleki Akauola.
Wentworthville got proceedings underway and it took the Panthers just over 60 seconds to get on the scoreboard. A Will Smith bomb was collected by winger Josh Hall who found Viliame Kikau in support to claim for the first points of the afternoon. Hall converted from touch to give the Panthers an early 6-0 lead.
Wentworthville brushed aside the early try and hit back with their own in the 9th minute of play when five-eighth Dylan Izzard took the line on and beat some lazy defenders to score close to the posts. Izzard converted his own try to level the scores at 6-6.
Wentworthville were awarded a penalty off the next set of six and they took full advantage of the field position as back-rower Matt Woods ran a great line to score in the 13th minute of play. The conversion was successful, handing the Magpies a 12-6 lead.
The Panthers found themselves attacking the line in the 18th minute of play and a nice backline move gifted Corey Harawira-Naera with some space against his opposite number. Harawira-Naera was too strong for his man and crossed out wide to bring the Panthers to within two. Hall converted the try to level the scores.
The Magpies hit the lead with five minutes remaining before the break. New Parramatta recruit Jeff Robson took the line on and reached out to score close to the posts. Dylan Izzard converted the try to give Wentworthville a 6-point lead.
HALFTIME – Wentworthville 18-12
The Magpies started the stronger in the second half and in the 45th minute Nick Kassis beat Akauola to cross for the Magpies' fourth try of the afternoon. Izzard converted to stretch the lead to 24-12.
The Magpies controlled proceedings early in the second half and Bureta Faraimo was on the end of a nice backline play in the 55th minute to give Wentworthville a 16-point lead. Izzard missed the conversion from out wide and the score remained 28-12.
The Panthers needed to be next to score and Hall answered the call in the 63rd minute. The winger received the ball 30 metres out from the Magpies line and burned his opposite number on the outside to give the Panthers hope.
The Panthers comeback was well and truly alive when they scored again through Kikau. The hulking forward claimed his second try of the afternoon with a strong run, beating a number of defenders. Hall kicked his fourth conversion of the day to bring the deficit down to four points.
The final ten minutes saw the Panthers throw caution to the wind in a bid to score a match-winning try. Harawira-Naera was on the end of a play that had went to the left-hand side and back to the right but he was unable to get the ball down as he was held up in the right corner.
The final play of the game saw Dylan Edwards with an opportunity but the Magpies defence was there in cover and a final flick pass was pounced on by the opposition.
FULLTIME - Wentworthville 28-24