A final minute field goal handed the Panthers a dramatic 17-16 victory over New Zealand Warriors at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Saturday.
The two sides traded late tries, and the game looked destined for a draw, before Panthers playmaker Dean Blore kicked the match-winning field goal with only seconds left on the clock.
The Warriors dropped the ball in their first set and the Panthers took full advantage. Simple hands to the left edge saw centre Shannon Harris dive over to open the scoring in the 2nd minute. Blore nailed the conversion to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
The visitors responded in the 24th minute as winger Elijah Sufia reached out to score after receiving a long cut-out ball from halfback Eiden Ackland. The attempted conversion was unsuccessful and the Panthers still led 6-4.
With six minutes left before the break, the Warriors bombed a certain try on the right flank as centre Patrick Elia ignored his open winger to run across field and drop the ball.
Instead it was the Panthers who struck in the shadows of half-time, as they finally found some open space and centre Zac Ryan barged over in the tackle. Blore’s attempted conversion was waved away, leaving the Panthers ahead by six points.
HALF-TIME – Panthers 10 – 4 Warriors
In the 42nd minute Warriors prop Preston Riki charged towards the tryline but somehow lost possession just as it came within reach.
With 17 minutes left in the contest Daine Laurie put a hopeful grubber into the Warriors in-goal. The Panthers fullback dived for the ball but it trickled out of reach and over the dead ball line.
Two minutes later Panthers winger Justin Jones thought he’d scored after a deflected bomb found its way into his possession but the referee called it back for a knock-on.
After earning a repeat set, the Warriors worked hard up the middle before finding enough space out wide for Sufia to dive over for his second try. Ackland was successful with the sideline conversion to make the score 10-all.
It didn’t stay that way for long. Returning the ball from the restart, the Warriors lost possession and Panthers backrower Billy Burns scooped up the ball for a simple try. The successful conversion gave the Panthers a 16-10 lead with seven minutes left to play.
The Warriors locked up the game again as a short ball put Mateaki Inisi over between the posts. The conversion from Ackland made it 16-all with two minutes to play.
An error from the visitors gave the Panthers attacking possession with a minute left on the clock. In his first Jersey Flegg appearance in 2018, Blore calmly stepped up and slotted the field goal to seal the dramatic victory.
FULL-TIME – Panthers 17 – 16 Warriors