The Jersey Flegg Panthers opened their 2021 campaign with a hard-fought 24-16 win over South Sydney Rabbitohs at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
On a hot afternoon at the foot of the mountains, the Panthers managed to keep their cool and overcome a niggling South Sydney side with a sizeable forward pack. Ethan Clark-Wood and Thomas Jenkins each bagged a double, while prop Hanna El-Nachar also crossed the line.
The Panthers showed great defensive awareness in the early stages, as they repelled a threatening South Sydney attack on their goal-line.
Five-eighth Sadee Sub Laban looked to have orchestrated a beautiful Panthers try when his chip into the corner was batted back by Ethan Clark-Wood for Thomas Jenkins, but the pass was ruled forward.
Prop forward Liam Henry was then denied a try when he was held up over the line, but the Panthers eventually got their much-deserved opener in the 22nd minute.
A tricky kick to the corner by halfback Hayden Bonanno was fumbled by South’s Zane Bijorac, and the ball was scooped up by winger Ethan Clark-Wood.
However, the lead was short-lived. Souths cancelled out the opener when five-eighth Dylan White sliced through. A successful conversion saw the Rabbitohs edge ahead 6-4.
The Rabbitohs could have had another when Rabbitohs centre Tallis Angianga took an intercept, but he was crucially chased down by Logan Dickson to preserve the score line.
HALF-TIME: RABBITOHS 6 – PANTHERS 4
The Panthers came flying out of the blocks in the second half, as they went bang-bang with a pair of quickfire tries to open up a 10-point lead.
Prop forward Hanna El-Nachar pushed the Panthers ahead in the 49th minute when he charged onto Connor Mason’s pass and crashed over from close range. Mason’s conversion made it a 10-6 lead.
The Panthers tried their hand at some expensive football from deep inside their own half, and they reaped the rewards with an excellent long-range try. A shift to the right edge unleashed Ethan Clark-Wood, and he found Thomas Jenkins pushing up in support to score.
Mason added the extras, and the Panthers led 16-6 after 52 minutes.
The Rabbitohs were not about to go down without a fight, and they closed the deficit to just four points with a converted try by centre Lathan Hutchison-Walters in the 59th minute.
But the Panthers would overpower South Sydney in the latter stages, as two exceptional tries put the game to bed.
Thomas Jenkins completed his double in the 51st minute when he chased down a chip kick and won a footrace to the try line, stretching the Panthers advantage to eight points.
Jenkins was again heavily involved in the match-sealing try, as he used his speed to burn South Sydney’s edge defence before laying it onto Clark-Wood, who completed the move with a marvellous finish in the corner.
The Rabbitohs added some respectability to the score line through fullback Chaise Spyroulias’ impressive solo try, but the Panthers came away with the two competition points to get their Jersey Flegg campaign off to a great start.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 24 – RABBITOHS 16