A makeshift Panthers NSW Cup side have kept their unbeaten run alive with a remarkable 46-18 upset victory over Newtown Jets at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday.
As a result of the upgraded NRL COVID-19 protocols, the Panthers were forced to field a team consisting of nine St Marys Ron Massey Cup players and eight members of the Panthers Jersey Flegg squad.
Despite having 24 hours notice of their promotion to the NSW Cup, and no opportunity to train with their new teammates, the Panthers showed undeniable spirit to overcome an early 14-0 deficit and shoot down the Jets.
Newtown raced out of the blocks, scoring three tries in the opening 22 minutes of play.
Zac Woolford set up the opening four-pointer of the game with a nice bit of work out of dummy half and Bronson Garlick barged his way over from close range. Honeti Tuha’s conversion attempt was waved away.
Former Panther Eddie Aiono collected a cross-field bomb and planted the ball down for the second try of the game before D’Rhys Miller charged onto the ball and stretched out to score the Jets' third.
The Panthers needed something to go their way and it came in the form of centre Tom Jenkins, who thwarted a Newtown raid with an intercept and 90m run to get Penrith on the board. Five-eighth Niwhai Puru slotted the extras to make it 14-6.
The home side went into the break with the momentum courtesy of an Adam Fearnley four-pointer in the 38th minute. Puru added the extras from out wide.
HALF-TIME: Newtown 14 – Panthers 12
The Panthers hit the lead early in the second half thanks to some brilliant work on the left edge. Jenkins broke free before some quick hands saw halfback Soni Luke dive over. Puru nailed the conversion from 10 metres in from touch to give Penrith a four-point lead.
The Panthers suddenly took control of the game with quickfire four-pointers to prop Liam Henry and winger Ethan Clark-Wood, who crossed the line in the 47th minute and 52nd minute respectively. Puru remained on target with the boot and Penrith held a 16-point lead with 25 minutes remaining.
Garlick ended the Panthers' point-scoring run with a solo effort three minutes later. The backrower used his strength to beat Puru’s attempted tackle and cross for his second four-pointer of the afternoon.
The points continued to flow and in the 62nd minute Panthers hooker Luke Sommerton dived over from dummy half, before Jenkins again showed impressive speed to grab his second try four minutes later.
Adam Fearnley capped off the memorable victory with his second try in the 77th minute and the Panthers celebrated a victory that keeps them atop the NSW Cup ladder for another week.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 46 – Newtown 18