The Panthers overcame the early loss of fullback Dylan Edwards to score a 22-14 victory over Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Panthers Stadium on Friday.
Panthers skipper Peter Wallace was ruled out before kick-off with a neck injury, which saw Sione Katoa start at hooker and Wayde Egan join the bench.
In the 10th minute the Panthers opened the scoring courtesy of a James Maloney penalty goal, after some desperate Bulldogs defenders were caught offside.
However the home side were dealt a huge blow four minutes later as Edwards was escorted from the field with a dislocated shoulder.
With the Panthers struggling to adjust to the sudden loss of their fullback, the Bulldogs marched down field and winger Marcelo Montoya grounded the ball in the corner. Moses Mbye nailed the sideline conversion and the Bulldogs led 6-2.
It was all too simple for centre Will Hopoate in the 25th minute as simple hands to the right edge found an overlap and he stepped back on the inside to score. Mbye knocked the conversion over to give the Bulldogs a 12-2 lead.
The Panthers surged in the final minutes before the break and makeshift centre Corey Harawira-Naera found himself in space to score untouched. Maloney was successful with the conversion attempt to make the score 12-8.
HALFTIME – Panthers 8 – 12 Bulldogs
The Panthers struck first after the break as some haphazard play ended with Moses Leota hitting a short ball at pace and reaching out to score. The conversion from Maloney put the Panthers ahead 14-12 in the 48th minute.
The Bulldogs equalised three minutes later as Mbye kicked a simple penalty goal from directly in front.
The Panthers responded with a penalty goal of their own with 20 minutes left to play, and re-took the lead 16-14.
The home side continued the momentum and after Jack Hetherington put a shot on Aaron Woods to dislodge the ball, the Panthers found more points. Quick ball to the left edge found space and the other makeshift centre Isaah Yeo dived over. Maloney's attempted conversion was waved away but the Panthers led 20-14 with 11 minutes left in the game.
Maloney added another penalty goal to his tally in the 73rd minute to give the Panthers a 22-14 lead.
FULLTIME - Panthers 22 - 14 Bulldogs