A hat-trick to new recruit Tyrone Phillips inspired the ISP Panthers to a convincing 30-6 win over St George Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
Phillips returned to the field for the first time after recovering from a pectoral injury and it took the try-scoring winger just 12 minutes of play to score his first four-pointer in Panthers colours.
A crisp backline play involving Liam Coleman and Sam Smith put Phillips on the outside of his man and he crossed out wide. A beautiful touchline conversion to Adam Keighran gave the Panthers an early 6-0 lead.
Smith once again put Phillips into open space in the 32nd minute of play and the speedster showed a great turn of pace to beat three defenders on his way to the line. Keighran converted the try to give the Panthers a 12-point lead at the break.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 12-0 Dragons
The Panthers withstood multiple sets on their line to start the second half and took full advantage of an opportunity in the 50th minute of the game. Captain Kaide Ellis burst onto a ball from Coleman. He brushed through the left flank of the Dragons defensive line to extend the Panthers lead. Keighran made it three from three and took the Panthers lead to 18 points with a conversion from out wide.
The Dragons needed to be next to score and they responded within five minutes. Patrick Herbert got on the outside of Keighran and found Tristan Sailor supporting on the inside. Sailor had too much pace for the chasing defence as he scored the first points of the day for the Dragons. He converted his own try to make the score 18-6 with 25 minutes to play.
As the defence began to tire, Jarome Luai began to cause the Dragons line plenty of problems in the middle third of the field. He picked his moment and stepped his way through the defence with 13 minutes to go. Keighran's conversion gave the Panthers a 24-6 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.
Sheer pace created the Panthers' final four-pointer of the afternoon. Phillips came off his wing looking for the ball and sliced through the Dragons line in a 40 metre dash to claim a hat-trick in his first game in Panthers colours.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 30-6