The Panthers have secured passage to the second week of the NRL Finals with an impressive 28-12 victory over the Bulldogs at Allianz Stadium.
Anthony Griffin’s side will now face Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium on Saturday after overpowering the Bulldogs in a dominant second half.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring in the 14th minute as Moses Mbye showed it inside, outside and went himself. He strolled through a yawning gap in the Panthers defensive line and touched down. He couldn’t convert his own try but the Dogs led 4-0.
Off the back of a Moylan error under the high ball, the Bulldogs earned a penalty almost directly in front of the posts. Mbye made no mistake and after 26 minutes of play the Dogs were ahead 6-0.
The Panthers finally put themselves on the board in the 34th minute with a well-timed switch of play close the Bulldogs line. An offload from Moylan created the overlap and Nathan Cleary threw a beautiful cut-out ball for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to touch down in the right corner. Cleary’s attempted conversion sailed wide, leaving the Dogs ahead 6-4.
HALFTIME: Bulldogs 6-4
The Panthers struck only two minutes into the second half as Josh Mansour busted the line on a kick return. Expertly drawing Brett Morris, the Panthers winger found a flying Waqa Blake on his outside to score in the corner. Cleary slotted the sideline conversion to put the Panthers ahead 10-6.
In the 54th minute some beautiful hands down the left flank put Isaah Yeo away before he offloaded for Tyrone Peachey. Moving the ball back to the middle, Moylan found Peter Wallace at pace to dive over beside the posts for a special try. Cleary put the conversion over and the Panthers led 16-6.
In the 61st minute the Panthers were in again as they ran the ball on the last tackle. Some desperate off-the-cuff play sent the ball to the left edge where Tyrone Peachey dummied and stepped back inside to score untouched. Cleary’s simple conversion extended the Panthers lead out to 22-6.
A huge break from Watene-Zelezniak in the 64th minute came to an end mere inches from the tryline as Mbye mowed him down. However the Bulldogs gave away a penalty in the play-the-ball. Cleary slotted it and pushed the advantage out to 24-6.
Josh Mansour capped off a great performance with his own four pointer in the 75th minute of play to extend the lead to 28-6.
Retiring Bulldog Sam Perrett signed off with a consolation try in the 78th minute, which he converted from close to the posts to see the Panthers take out the Elimination Final 28 points to 12.
FULLTIME: Panthers 28-12