An impressive first half from the ISP Panthers laid the foundation for a 28-18 Qualifying Final victory over the Bulldogs at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
The win means the Panthers enjoy a week off before a Preliminary Final showdown at Leichhardt Oval.
Adam Keighran almost got the Panthers off to a perfect start after just six minutes of play. He stepped and jinxed his way through the line only for the ball to come loose thanks to a Josh Cleeland cover tackle.
Back-to-back penalties gave the Bulldogs great field position and big prop forward Francis Tualau barged his way over from close range. Cleeland's conversion gave Canterbury an early 6-0 advantage.
Liam Martin cancelled out Tualau's opening try with a rampaging run of his own minutes later. Martin busted the line and planted the ball down under the posts, giving Keighran an easy conversion to level the scores.
Andy Saunders created the Panthers second of the afternoon, a bullocking run in the middle third of the field saw him get a late offload away to Wayde Egan. The dummy half quickly shifted to Caleb Aekins, giving the fullback a clear run to the line. Keighran added the extras to give the Panthers a 12-6 lead after 21 minutes.
Bulldogs winger Jayden Okunbor forced a pass coming out of his own end which gifted Liam Coleman a 20 metre dash to the line. Keighran converted the four-pointer from out wide to see the Panthers take a 12-point lead to the break.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 18 – Bulldogs 6
It took 13 minutes of play in the second stanza for points to be added. A slick backline play saw Tyrone Phillips get his hands free and put Ratu Tuisese over in the south-eastern corner of Panthers Stadium. Keighran's touchline conversion attempt was waved away.
The Bulldogs needed to hit back and they did in a big way. Prop forward Renouf To'omaga continued the great day try-scoring day for forwards when he barged over from close range.
Minutes later left centre John Olive took advantage of a rare error from winger Sam Smith. Olive picked up the loose ball and crossed out wide. Both tries were converted Cleeland, bringing the score to back to 22-18 with just 18 minutes to play and ensuring a tight finish was to follow in the first ISP Qualifying Final.
The Panthers defence was tested time and time again in the final period of the game, however it took just one attacking set for the Panthers to regain a two try lead. Second rower Billy Burns stepped back off his left, beat three defenders and stretched his way over. Keighran's conversion gave the Panthers a 10-point cushion with minutes to play.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 28 – Bulldogs 18