Panthers win SG Ball Grand Final
The Panthers have won the 2018 SG Ball Cup after defeating the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 25-14 in the Grand Final at Leichardt Oval on Saturday.
Despite going into halftime behind on the scoreboard, the Panthers fired up after the break to overpower the Bulldogs and claim the club's eighth SG Ball premiership.
The Panthers got off to a blistering start as winger Zac Cini broke into space on the right wing and produced a brilliant solo effort to run 50 metres and score the opening try in the 3rd minute. Centre Stephen Crichton's sideline conversion attempt was waved away, and the score remained 4-0.
The Panthers appeared to have scored their second in the 9th minute when Maurice Trindall burrowed over from dummy half, however the referee deemed that the hooker dropped the football over the try line.
The Bulldogs charged upfield and opened their account in the 11th minute when winger Logen Dillon plucked a bomb from the air to score. Centre Jake Averillo failed to convert and the score remained deadlocked.
However the Panthers quickly retook their lead in the 16th minute when five-eighth Matt Burton grubbered in behind the Bulldogs defence and winger Ethan Clark-Wood scooped up the ball and crossed the stripe. Crichton converted from the sideline to extend the Panthers lead to 10-4.
A strong run by Averillo in the 25th minute carried the Bulldogs back into the Panthers red zone, and the centre finished off what he started by crossing next to the uprights. He then added the extras to draw level.
The Bulldogs then stole the lead in the 28th minute when prop Iverson Fuatimau linked up with fullback Tyrone Harding, who streaked away to score. Averillo's conversion was off the mark and the score remained 14-10.
The Panthers pushed to hit back before halftime, but poor execution saw them come unstuck as the Bulldogs took a four-point lead into the sheds.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 10-14 BULLDOGS
The Panthers scored the opening try of the second half when lock Shawn Blore picked up a loose ball and charged through a gaping hole in the Bulldogs goal line defence in the 42nd minute. Crichton converted, edging the Panthers ahead 16-14.
Ratu Nanovo appeared to have extended the Panthers lead in the 48th minute when he spun his way over the try line, but the second rower was denied by a forward pass ruling.
However the Panthers weren't denied on their next appeal when Crichton cut infield and linked up with fullback Charlie Staines, who blitzed the Bulldogs defence to dash away and touch down. Crichton then converted, taking the Panthers out to a 22-14 lead in the 52nd minute.
The Bulldogs hopes suffered a massive blow in the 58th minute when Logen Dillon was sent off for an eye gouge.
A two-on-one strip penalty in front of the posts gifted the Panthers a shot at goal, and Matt Burton made no mistake to extend the Panthers lead to 24-14.
In the final moments of the game, Bonnano knocked a field goal over and celebrations began.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 25 - 14 BULLDOGS