The Jersey Flegg Panthers blew off the cobwebs in their first trial match ahead of the 2021 season - a 38-4 loss to Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Saturday.
It was the team’s first official hit-out in almost twelve months following the cancellation of last year’s Jersey Flegg Cup, and an opportunity for coach Ben Harden to assess his side ahead of the new season.
The Panthers got off to a great start, scoring the first try through winger Ethan Clark-Wood, who was highly impressive in his 40-minute stint. But it the Bulldogs were utterly dominant from that point onwards, running in seven unanswered tries.
The effects of having not played in almost one year were evident, with the Panthers making a wealth of handling errors throughout.
The Panthers were under siege early on after an energetic start from the Bulldogs, before snagging the opening try with their first attacking opportunity of the match.
The Panthers executed a scrum play to perfection, as a shift of hands culminated in Ethan Clark-Wood crossing the stripe to put his side 4-0 ahead after 8 minutes.
However, the lead was short lived. An error directly from kick-off allowed the Bulldogs to score an opportunistic try, and a successful conversion saw them edge ahead 6-4.
Clark-Wood almost regained the Panthers’ lead when he latched onto a cut-out pass from five-eighth Niwhai Puru and dived for the corner, but he was ruled to have gone into touch.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 12-4 on the stroke of quarter time, as the Panthers goal line defence was ousted by a crash play.
Ethan Clark-Wood added another instalment to his highlights reel when his crunching tackle forced a Bulldogs knock on.
This put the Panthers on the attack, and they came close to scoring from it as Niwhai Puru found Mackenzie Atkins in space, but the centre could not hang onto the low pass.
Second-rower Zac Duclos was then forced off with a head injury as the blows continued to roll in for the luckless Panthers.
The Bulldogs immediately begun targeting the Panthers weakened left edge, and they came up trumps with a kick in behind the goal-line defence for a try, extending their advantage to 18-4.
That quickly turned into 22-4 shortly before halftime, as their winger tiptoed down the sideline to score despite Mackenzie Atkins’ desperate chase.
HALF-TIME: BULLDOGS 22 – PANTHERS 4
The early stages of the second half were littered with handling errors by either side, restricting the Panthers chances of mounting a comeback.
The floodgates begun to open with just over 20 minutes remaining, as a line break left the Panthers backpedalling and allowed the Bulldogs to pile on a fifth try and make it 26-4.
The margin was quickly extended to 34 points by two quickfire tries, one from close range and another from inside the Bulldogs’ own half.
Flynn Isaacs showed great courage to prevent another try, making an excellent one-on-one tackle on a runaway Bulldogs prop before defusing a kick in behind a play later.
FULL-TIME: BULLDOGS 38 – PANTHERS 4