A positive start wasn't enough for the young Panthers as they faded late in a 28-16 defeat against the Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground on Saturday.
An early penalty gave the Panthers their first attacking possession of the game and they took immediate advantage. As they came within range, some slick hands on the right edge saw centre Caleb Aekins slice through to score in the 6th minute. The successful conversion made it 6-0.
After defusing a dangerous situation on their own goal line, another relieving penalty sent the Panthers marching downfield. On the fifth tackle playmaker Wayde Egan sent up a spiralling bomb and winger Brian Too did the rest – flying high to snaffle the ball and touch down. The attempted conversion was unsuccessful but the Panthers led 10-0 after 15 minutes.
As fatigue set in, consistent errors began to plague the Panthers game and they were forced to defend repeat sets on their own line. Eventually the pressure told as the Bulldogs crashed over with four minutes left until halftime. The conversion brought the score back to 10-6 on the cusp of the break.
HALFTIME – Panthers 10-6
The halftime break saw Panthers NYC coach David Tangata-Toa swap out almost every starting player as he looked to test different combinations in the second half.
However the poor ball control continued for the Panthers and the Bulldogs again took advantage after being gifted attacking possession. A simple spread to the right edge found the Panthers short and the Dogs crashed over to level the scores at 10-10 in the 48th minute.
The home side took the lead eight minutes later as some tired defending up the middle from the Panthers meant a simple change of angle was enough for a try. The conversion was knocked over from right in front and the Bulldogs led 16-10.
Seemingly out of nowhere the Panthers hit back. The Bulldogs defence, which had been put under little pressure in the second half, suddenly cracked and let Mose Felio clean through to score between the posts. The simple conversion levelled the contest at 16-16 with 19 minutes left to play.
It was something similar as the Panthers right edge defence let the Bulldogs break clear four minutes later and despite a desperate last-ditch tackle from Sam Martin-Savage, the try was scored. Another conversion from in front and the Bulldogs were out to a 22-16 lead.
The Dogs sealed the game with three minutes left as an offload somehow rebounded into the try-scorers arms.
FULLTIME – Bulldogs 28-16