It was a tough weekend for the Panthers Tarsha Gale Cup, Harold Matthews Cup and SG Ball sides, who all tasted defeat against Illawarra Steelers in Wollongong.
Tarsha Gale Cup: A spirited effort wasn’t enough as the Tarsha Gale Panthers fell 38-16 to the undefeated Steelers at Collegians Sporting Complex on Saturday.
While throwing plenty at Illawarra in attack, Penrith were punished for loose defence in the ruck as Illawarra ran in eight tries, with some starting inside their own half.
It was the Panthers who got on the board first though. Five-eighth Suresa-Moana Enese put through a clever kick which bounced awkwardly for Steelers winger Teagan Berry. Sensing an opportunity, Enese chased her own kick and picked up the scraps to open the scoring.
Illawarra hit right back a few minutes later when Viena Tinao steamed through a gaping hole before popping an offload for halfback Tiana Graham who sprinted away to score.
An error off the scrum fee saw the Panthers squander an opportunity close to Illawarra’s line and they were made to pay, with Emily Andrews exposing some flimsy defence in the middle to run 60 metres all the way to the try line.
They weren’t so wasteful with their next chance though, with a penalty marching Penrith upfield before Tegan Toa-Toa showed off her acrobatic skills as she dived over in the corner.
20-MINUTE BREAK: Panthers 8 Steelers 10
Trailing by just two points at the first drinks break, the Panthers were threatening to be the first time to topple the ladder leaders. But two quick tries saw the Steelers reassert their dominance.
The first came off the back of a sudden turn of pace from Keele Browne before Chantel Tugaga crashed over off a Riley Scott short ball to extend Illawarra’s lead to 14.
Reshaun Vaughan then went over for Penrith to reduce the deficit to 10.
Despite a determined effort it wasn’t to be for the Panthers as they struggled to hold strong in defence, conceding another try.
40-MINUTE BREAK: Panthers 12 Steelers 26
Teagan Berry went over minutes into the final stanza of the clash to extend Illawarra’s lead to 18 before a looping cut-out pass from halfback Bree Chester sent Lavinia Taiseni over out wide in what was Penrith’s last try of the game.
Illawarra crossed over late for two more four-pointers to have the final say.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 16 Steelers 38
Harold Matthews Cup: Uncharacteristic errors proved the downfall of the Harold Matts Panthers on Saturday as they went down 28-22 to Illawarra.
In a game where the lead changed hands on multiple occasions, Penrith were unable to hold onto the ball at key moments and were punished by a Steelers side led by hattrick hero Trey Barlow.
A smart kick from Illawarra halfback Toby Peters trapped Jack Cole in his own left corner. The Penrith fullback then tried to dance his way down the sideline but was pulled into touch.
That display of commitment earned the Steelers a full set on the Panthers’ line and they quickly capitalised as Edward Pierce sliced over out wide.
Foreshadowing the seesawing affair that was to come, Penrith soon hit back when hooker Ryley Smith trailed a Jake Hay bomb and pounced on the loose ball to run away and score. The conversion from Hay saw the Panthers take the lead.
Penrith’s next try had to be seen to be believed. Running it on the last, Sione Neiufi appeared destined to be forced over the sideline. But the centre managed to throw the ball back inside for Caleb Coroneos and with Cole trailing on the inside, the Panthers went over and were rewarded for not giving up on the play.
A lapse in concentration saw Illawarra win the scrum against the fee and they were gifted a full set on Penrith’s line. And last-ditch tries were in vogue on Saturday afternoon, with Steelers five-eighth Barlow stepping his way through the line on the fifth tackle to reach out and score.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 12 Steelers 10
Barlow was at it again 10 minutes later, his speed still causing headaches as the nifty playmaker sprinted away to go over in the corner.
Momentum swung back in Penrith’s favour in the 44th minute when Jesse Buchan dragged Illawarra defenders with him on the way to the try line.
But just as they had locked things up, the Panthers found themselves trailing again two minutes later. A costly error off the restart handed possession back to the Steelers and Barlow nabbed a hattrick as he snuck over to push his side’s lead out to six again.
Four defenders weren’t enough to stop a barging Alfred Uelese from scoring for the Panthers to levelling the scores once more.
Penrith couldn’t help themselves though, coming up with another mistake off the kick-off with this one proving the difference as Coleby Smith scored to win the game for Illawarra.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 22 Steelers 28
SG Ball: A last-gasp try saw Illawarra crush the gallant SG Ball Panthers 12-8 on Saturday.
The performance was certainly an improvement on last week’s comprehensive 38-4 defeat, with Penrith showing far more resolve and commitment in defence. But errors were their undoing in the early stages of the game.
The bad habits of the Harold Matts side appeared to have rubbed off on the SG Ball Panthers as they let the ball trickle dead off the kick-off to Saturday afternoon’s clash.
It saw the Steelers handed a golden opportunity to post the first points of the match, which they did, with a slick backline play seeing Tyrell Sloan cross over in the left corner.
Penrith weren’t with early chances of their own, but errors meant that they were unable to build any pressure and instead Illawarra added to their lead when Sean Payne steamed onto a perfectly-timed short ball.
The Panthers stole possession back off the restart but were again unable to capitalise, with handling errors their worst enemy in the opening half.
A forced dropout finally saw Penrith score in the 28th minute, with Ezra Coulston diving over in the corner off the back of sustained pressure.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 4 Steelers 8
The Panthers looked to have locked things up when Reece Alderton barged over next to the posts, only for the officials to rule he had lost the ball short of the line.
It proved a minor speedbump though as Coulston went over in the 58th minute to nab a double and set up a grandstand finish with scores tied at eight apiece.
But it would end in heartbreak for Penrith. Max Feagai stormed through a hole with 30 seconds left and found halfback Jayden Sullivan in support to hand the Steelers a thrilling win.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 8 Steelers 12