The NSW Cup Panthers suffered their first defeat of the season with a disappointing 38-16 loss to Mounties at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday.
After escaping with a dramatic two-point victory against the Rabbitohs last weekend, the Panthers struggled to contain the Mounties pack and were made to pay for constant ill-discipline in defence.
The Panthers opened their account in the 10th minute as winger Robert Jennings broke clear down the left edge. As the defence closed in, he chipped back on the inside for Izack Tago to grab the ball and score. Kurt Falls failed to convert, leaving the score at 4-0.
The Panthers extended their lead 15 minutes later as Jennings made a last-ditch play just as Mounties created a two-on-one on his edge. The winger snaffled an intercept and ran 90 metres to dive over in the corner. Falls nailed the sideline conversion and the Panthers led 10-0.
Mounties hit back in the 33rd minute as backrower Jack Miller found a gap in the Panthers defence on the fifth tackle. Halfback Kamren Cryer was on target with the conversion attempt to make the score 10-6.
The visitors scored twice in the shadows of half-time courtesy of two kicks from Rhys Davies and a fair dose of good luck.
The first – a grubber - caused confusion in the Panthers defence and fullback Declan Casey was the man on the spot to dive on the loose ball. Cryer knocked the conversion over to give Mounties a two-point lead.
As the siren sounded, another kick from Davies rebounded off a defender and straight into the arms of centre Falakiko Manu to offload for winger Tuipoluta Katoa to score in the corner. Cryer slotted the conversion from the sideline and suddenly Mounties were in control.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 10 – 18 Mounties
Mounties extended their lead five minutes after the break as some simple hands found an overlap and Katoa was over for his second try. The attempted conversion was waved away but Mounties led 22-10.
The visitors pulled further ahead in the 56th minute as Larson Doyle was afforded too much space close to the try-line and offloaded for prop Renouf Atoni to score. Cryer missed the conversion attempt but Mounties had a 16-point lead.
The Panthers had been giving away penalties throughout the match and in the 63rd minute Cryer took the opportunity to kick a simple penalty goal for an 18-point lead.
With 13 minutes left in the contest Panthers prop Anton Iaria found a late offload for fellow front-rower Billy Tsikrikas to juggle and ground over the try-line. Falls kicked the conversion to cut the Mounties lead to make the score 28-16.
However the result was put beyond all doubt as hooker Josh Daley dummied and went himself to score from close range. Cryer’s conversion re-established the 18-point lead.
Katoa then iced the Mounties victory as Manu offloaded for the winger to touch down in the corner to complete his hat-trick.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 16 – 38 Mounties