The NYC Panthers have powered their way into the 2016 Holden Cup Grand Final with a 32-16 victory over North Queensland Cowboys at Allianz Stadium on Friday.
Panthers NYC coach Cam Ciraldo made a late adjustment to his side with Wayde Egan moved into starting hooker and Soni Luke dropping to the bench. Fullback Kalyn Ponga was a late omission for the Cowboys, with his place in the starting side taken by Nathan Traill and Emry Pere added to the bench.
The Panthers opened the scoring in the 6th minute as Tyrone May found a well-timed inside ball to skipper Oliver Clark. The prop crashed over beside the posts and Dylan Edwards converted for a 6-0 lead.
After Edwards opened the Cowboys up with a quick tap and 80m burst, Cowen Epere hit a short ball at pace and crashed over for a 15th minute try. Edwards knocked the simple conversion over and the Panthers led 12-0.
Edwards was in everything early and claimed a try of his own three minutes later. With a penalty giving the Panthers field position, the fullback dummied and went himself to touch down in the tackle. The conversion attempt was successful and the Panthers lead pushed out to 18-0.
The props were proving adept at getting over the tryline and the Cowboys hit back in the 21st minute as big man Nicholas Brown powered through the Panthers defence to score. Cooper Bambling was on target with the conversion to make the score 18-6.
Panthers winger Ratu Tuisese claimed a try in the 29th minute as an offload from Christian Crichton took a fortunate deflection off a Cowboys defender. Edwards was unable to convert from out wide and the score remained 22-6.
The Cowboys hit straight back as winger Marcus Jensen got on the outside of Daniel Brown and powered his way down the sideline to score. Bambling’s attempted conversion was waved away, leaving the Panthers ahead 22-10 with five minutes until the break.
HALFTIME – Panthers 22-10
The Panthers were dealt a major blow as centre Braidon Burns was sin-binned for a professional foul in the 54th minute. From the next set Cowboys hooker Brandon Smith scurried out of dummy half to score beside the posts. A conversion from Bambling and the score was back to 22-16.
The Panthers bombed multiple opportunities to re-establish their two-try lead as Kaide Ellis lost possession with the line at his mercy, and Soni Luke was ruled to have dropped the ball with a scoot out of dummy half.
After a defensive arm wrestle that dominated the second stanza, out of nowhere Daniel Brown broke clean through the Cowboys line in the 72nd minute and sped his way to the right corner. Edwards couldn't convert from out wide and the score remained 26-6.
May iced the result with five minutes left as he ran the ball on the final tackle and somehow got a looping offload away for Egan to dive over. The conversion from Edwards put the Panthers up 32-16 and secured their place in the 2016 Grand Final.
FULLTIME - Panthers 32-16