The ISP Panthers withstood a second half comeback to claim a 36-22 victory over a star-studded Mounties outfit at Aubrey Keech Reserve on Saturday.
The home side boasted plenty of NRL experience in the form of Josh Papalii, Jarrad Kennedy and Craig Garvey. However the Panthers showed impressive enthusiasm and grit to hold off their more fancied opponents.
A strong set in the 8th minute ended with points for the Panthers. Simple hands to the right edge was greeted by a staggered defensive line and backrower Liam Martin crashed over. Adam Keighran couldn’t convert but Panthers led 4-0.
The Panthers extended their lead ten minutes later as Jack Hetherington hit the ball at pace and found the tryline. Keighran slotted the conversion to give the visitors a 10-0 lead.
The sliding defence of Mounties was made to pay again in the 19th minute as Panthers centre Tom Eisenhuth touched down in the tackle. The attempted conversion sailed wide, leaving Panthers ahead 14-0.
Mounties got on the board in the 29th minute as a hard-running Jack Murchie got an offload away to fullback Brad Abbey to score in the corner. Sitiveni Moceidreke couldn’t convert and the scoreboard read 14-4 to Panthers.
The visitors hit back soon after as Jarome Luai found Keighran running a smart line to score. The Panthers centre converted his own try and gave Panthers a 20-4 lead.
Mounties injected themselves back into the contest with a try as the siren sounded for halftime. Winger Mikaele Ravalawa slipped a couple of attempted tackles to touch down beside the posts.
HALFTIME – Panthers 20 – 10 Mounties
After grimly defending their own line for consecutive sets, the Panthers extended their lead in the 55th minute. Luai skipped his way across field and eventually found an unmarked Ratu Tuisese on the left wing to complete the simplest of finishes. Keighran couldn’t convert but Panthers were ahead 24-10.
Mounties replied almost immediately as Tony Satini showed enough strength to get the ball down despite the attention of several defenders. Moceidreke knocked the conversion over from the sideline, reducing the Panthers lead to eight points.
A penalty given away on the fifth tackle proved costly for the Panthers as Mounties found an extra man on the left edge and Moceidreke dived over for a try in the 67th minute. The winger again slotted the conversion from out wide and the score was 24-22 to the Panthers.
With eight minutes left, Sione Katoa took a quick tap from a penalty and Abbey couldn’t help but grab the Panthers hooker from an offside position. The Mounties fullback was sin-binned and the Panthers took immediate advantage. Martin stayed strong in contact and reached out to slam the ball down for his second try of the game. Keighran’s conversion put the Panthers ahead 30-22 with five minutes left to play.
Luai capped with win with a try in the final minute as the defence spilled his grubber kick and the playmaker pounced.
FULLTIME - Panthers 36 - 22 Mounties