The Jersey Flegg Panthers had their first pre-season hit out in the form of a 22-18 loss to Wests Tigers at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
After trailing 22-0, the Panthers scored four tries in the final 15 minutes on to set up a grandstand finish, but were unable to snatch a dramatic win.
Despite the result, Panthers coach Guy Missio will be impressed by the spirit shown by his side in the final ten minutes.
As to be expected, errors were aplenty as both sides took to the field for the first time in 2020.
The Tigers dominated early field position and found a breakthrough in the 12th minute when hooker Jake Simpkin burrowed over. Ben Stevanovic knocked over the conversion to make it 6-0 to the Tigers.
Tigers winger Josh Rizk added a spectacular second try, as he jumped out of dummy half and ran 80 metres to score in the corner. Stevanovic failed to convert, and it remained 10-0 to the Tigers after 19 minutes.
The Panthers spent a lengthy period camped on the Tigers’ line late in the first half, but pre-season rust was apparent as they failed to post a try.
HALF-TIME: WESTS TIGERS 10 – PANTHERS 0
The Panthers returned to the second half with a spring in their step, but it was quickly trounced when Tigers forward Daniel Sykes made a charge down.
Sykes retrieved the ball, putting the Tigers on the attack, and Ray Jankovic stormed over not long after. The successful conversion stretched the Tigers’ lead to 16-0.
The Tigers skipped further ahead when Ben Stevanovic muscled his way to the chalk, and Ceniza James’ conversion made it 22-0 after 43 minutes.
It had been a gloomy afternoon for the Panthers up until the 58th minute, when they embarked on a mini comeback.
Fullback Taylan May bagged the Panthers’ first try, touching down in the corner after a neat exchange of passes to cut the score down to 22-8.
A well-executed set play spelled the Panthers’ second, with Ethan Clark-Wood the try-scorer.
Another late try out wide further reduced the margin to ten points, before Fred Pupu dashed away for another to make it 22-18 with one minute remaining.
However, the Panthers’ dramatic comeback fell just short, as the Tigers held on for the win.
FULL-TIME: WESTS TIGERS 22 – PANTHERS 18