A horror first half saw the ISP Panthers fall to a 32-24 defeat against Wentworthville Magpies at Panthers Stadium on Sunday.
On the back of a one-sided penalty count and a succession of Panthers errors, the Magpies eased their way to a 24-0 lead by the break.
The Panthers charged back into contention with three back-to-back tries in the second half but ultimately couldn't bridge the gap.
The Magpies dominated possession deep inside Penrith’s half throughout the opening 10 minutes on the back of consecutive penalties, however the Panthers goal line defence held firm to deny Wentworthville an early opener.
Following an exchange of handling errors, Wentworthville opened the scoring in the 14th minute when five-eighth Kauri Aupouri sliced through the Panthers defence with a piece of fancy footwork. Centre Nathan Davis converted to take the Magpies out to a 6-0 lead.
The Magpies extended their lead in the 21st minute when prop Liam Martin’s desperate attempt to keep the ball alive on the last tackle saw him throw an intercept to Davis, who streaked away to score. Davis added the extras to stretch the margin to 12-0.
Davis found himself with a quick-fire double just three minutes later, latching onto a bullet pass by hooker Reed Mahoney to cross the line. His conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the score at 16-0 after 25 minutes.
Wentworthville went out to a 20-point lead in the 29th minute as Zac Nicholls sent a cutout pass to former Panthers winger Eddie Aiono, who touched down in the corner. Davis’ goal from out wide widened the gap to 22-0.
Davis kicked a late penalty goal to round off an impressive first half by the Magpies, leaving the Panthers with a 24-point deficit to make up for in the second stanza.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 0-24 MAGPIES
The Panthers finally opened their account in the 48th minute when Liam Martin muscled his way over the try line following a quick exchange of hands down the right edge. Centre Adam Keighran slotted the conversion from out wide to narrow the margin to 18 points.
The Panthers came close to scoring a second try in the 53rd minute when Wayde Egan darted from dummy half in close range, however the hooker was pulled down inches short of the try line.
A short ball by halfback Liam Coleman to Kaide Ellis saw the Panthers nab their second try in the 57th minute, as the second rower hit a hole in the Wentworthville goal line defence and crashed over. Keighran added the extras to make it 24-12.
The Panthers closed the gap to just six points in the 64th minute as five-eighth Jarome Luai weaved through the Wentworthville defence and won a footrace to the try line, with Keighran’s conversion taking the score to 24-18.
The Panthers’ hopes of an incredible comeback were put on hold in the 67th minute when Davis crossed the line from a scrum for his hat-trick, and his conversion saw the Panthers fall back to a 12-point deficit.
An error from the kickoff saw the Panthers return to within a converted try of the Magpies however, with Egan picking up the scraps of a knock on to seal his double. Keighran converted to make it 30-24 with 11 minutes remaining.
The Magpies extended their lead quickly through a 71st-minute Davis penalty goal, which put the Panthers behind by eight.
The Panthers scrambled desperately for late points to salvage a miracle win, however the eight-point gap proved to big to be closed as the Magpies came out on top 32-24.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 24-32 MAGPIES