Panthers defeat in-form Bulldogs

The Canterbury Cup Panthers knocked off an in-form Bulldogs outfit 28-18 at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Brendan Hands had a debut to remember, scoring a try and assisting two to help the Panthers climb above the Bulldogs into second spot on the competition ladder.

Hands was joined on the scoresheet by Jake Tago, Billy Burns, Dean Blore and Brayden McGrady, who set up a scintillating try at the end of the first half.

It was a gutsy effort by the Panthers, up against a Bulldogs side unbeaten in their last eight appearances.

Kerrod Holland, one of the Bulldogs' eight players with NRL experience, opened the scoring inside two minutes after the Panthers spilled a bomb, setting an ominous tone.

But the Panthers responded in excellent fashion, scoring two quick tries to race out to an 12-4 lead after 12 minutes.

Brendan Hands marked his debut with a try in the 6th minute, latching onto a good offload by Kaide Ellis close to the line.

Then, from a scrum, winger Jake Tago slipped free of the Bulldogs defence and found the stripe. Jed Cartwright converted both tries.

Tago turned try-saver in the 14th minute, pushing John Olive into touch as the Bulldogs winger leaped for the line.

There would be no denying Fa’amanu Brown however, as the Bulldogs five-eighth danced his way over in the 18th minute. Holland’s conversion attempt struck the upright, and the Panthers remained 12-8 ahead.

The Panthers again hit straight back, and it was Hands with the assist. He took on the line before getting an offload away for Billy Burns to stroll over, and Cartwright kept up his perfect record with the boot to make it 18-8.

The Panthers then bagged their fourth try of the first half in the 32nd minute through a piece of Brayden McGrady magic.

The speedy outside back broke away on the right wing and weaved through several Bulldogs defenders before putting a kick ahead for Dean Blore to pounce, capping off a dominant first half by the Panthers.

HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 22 – BULLDOGS 8

The Bulldogs came flying out of the blocks in the second half and trimmed it down to a four-point margin within 15 minutes.

For the first try, Connelly Leumelu got on the outside of Tyrell Fuimaono and found former Panther Christian Crichton on his outside. Holland landed the sideline to make it 22-14.

A few minutes later, John Olive scored in the corner at the end of a backline movement. Holland was unable to add the extras, but it was the Bulldogs with all the momentum.

The Panthers quickly saw about extinguishing that, muscling up in the middle and forcing a string of errors.

A strip by Hame Sele put the Panthers on the attack in the 66th minute, and they took full advantage.

A soaring cut-out pass by Brendan Hands put McGrady one-one-one with Crichton, and he stepped back inside to slam the ball down. Cartwright nailed the sideline conversion to stretch the Panthers’ lead to a comfortable 10 points.

Things got heated in the closing stages after Nick Lui-Toso laid a crunching hit on Crichton, which forced the Bulldogs winger off the field.

In the final ten minutes, Sione Katoa was sin binned and placed on report for two separate incidents, as tensions continued to boil over.

Despite the one-man deficit, the Panthers held their nerve and hung on for a ten-point win, moving into second spot on the competition ladder before next week’s bye.

FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 28 – BULLDOGS 18