The Panthers edged out Newtown Jets 18-16 in a tight Canterbury Cup contest at Henson Park on Sunday.
It was a gritty, error-riddled affair which came to life in the final 10 minutes when the Jets scored two tries to set up a grandstand finish, but the Panthers held on to snap a two-game losing streak.
The performances of Jarome Luai and Dylan Edwards ultimately got the Panthers over the line; Luai assisted two tries, while Edwards ran for 223 metres.
After Edwards was cut down short of the line in the 5th minute, Tyrell Fuimaono looked to burrow over from dummy half, but the ball came loose.
The Panthers started the game positively, but received a major setback in the 7th minute when Jed Cartwright’s afternoon was ended by a shoulder injury.
One of the Jets’ few chances of the first half came in the 14th minute. Kyle Flanagan found Luke Polselli in space on his inside, but the fullback left the ball behind.
A quick tap by Edwards put the Panthers on the attack in the 17th minute, but a poor last-tackle option saw the opportunity fizzle out.
The opening points were proving to be elusive, until a piece of Jarome Luai magic sent Brian Too over in the 22nd minute.
Luai had the Jets goal line defence backpedalling as he drifted cross-field before he linked with Too, who stepped inside and muscled his way to the stripe. Edwards added the conversion from out wide to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead.
In the space of two minutes, the Panthers went from nearly conceding against the run of play, to doubling their lead in spectacular fashion.
In the 30th minute, Isaac Lumelume pinned his ears back with the line in sight, but Edwards and Brent Naden combined in cover defence to barrel the winger into touch.
The Panthers were rewarded for their defensive efforts, as Luai found Caleb Aekins lurking around the ruck and unleashed his halves partner. Aekins left Polselli in his wake with a great sidestep, and Edwards converted to make it 12-0 after 32 minutes.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 12 – JETS 0
Matheson Johns came close in the 44th minute when he latched onto an Edwards short ball, but the centre was reeled in by Lumelume’s last-ditch tackle.
Lumelume went from try-saver to try-scorer five minutes later, chasing down Kyle Flanagan’s grubber to give the Jets lift-off. Flanagan was unable to convert, and it remained 12-4.
The Jets almost had another through Lumelume in the 56th minute after the ball ricocheted to the in-goal, but Edwards was quick on his feet to concede a dropout.
Edwards had the Jets backpedalling with another quick tap in the 64th minute, and the Panthers took advantage as Kaide Ellis backed into the goal line defence and offloaded for Nick Lui-Toso to spin over the line. Edwards knocked over the goal to stretch the Panthers lead to 14 points.
However, the Jets refused to roll over and set up an exciting finish when halfback Braydon Trindall dashed away. Flanagan added the extras to make it 18-10 with nine minutes to play.
After the Panthers bravely defended two sets on their own line late on, the Jets set up a grandstand finish when Ronaldo Mulitalo crossed in the 79th minute.
Trindall converted from the sideline to close the gap to two points, but it was too little, too late for the Jets as the Panthers wound down the clock to hold on for a nervy win.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 18 – JETS 16