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Young Panthers prevail in Dogs double header

The Harold Matthews Cup Panthers took the honours in a trial match double header against Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Windsor Sporting Complex on Saturday. 

With both clubs still to finalise their teams for 2022, the squads were divided into two groups to compete in two 40-minute games. 

The first match saw the young Panthers finish level with the Bulldogs, as each team struggled to find their rhythm in the muddy conditions.

Kicking off towards the southern end, the Bulldogs put pressure on the Panthers early, with all players up in the line attempting to force an error. 

Canterbury gave away two early penalties, but the Panthers struggled to find form in attack, missing crucial scoring opportunities. 

A break from the Bulldogs was shut down by Penrith fullback Joshua Debritt, who sprinted down the sideline, making a crucial tackle to halt the Bulldogs' efforts.

However Canterbury capitalised from the subsequent penalty, with centre Sosaia Kaufusi crossing the line to put his team ahead after ten minutes of play.

Gaining momentum from the try, the Bulldogs came out firing from the restart, but a courageous defensive effort from Jett Cleary and Danetyn Patuki Case turned the Panthers’ luck around.

A great run by Penrith centre Malakia Folau allowed the Panthers to progress down the field, forcing a goal-line dropout in the final minute of the half.

Working the ball towards the try-line, Cleary found a gap in the Bulldogs defence to draw the Panthers level on the siren. 

GAME ONE HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 4 – BULLDOGS 4

From the kick-off of the second half, Canterbury secured a turnover with a one-on-one strip, putting them immediately on the attack.

However Debritt was on hand to shut down the opportunity, before Riley Allan hunted down a Panthers dropout and forced an error from the Bulldogs on the half-way line.

And he wasn’t finished yet. In the 25th minute, Allan fought off the Canterbury defence, crossing the line to put Penrith ahead 8-4.

However a try in the 33rd minute to Canterbury hooker Mohamad Rajab saw the Bulldogs draw level/

Unforced errors characterised the final minutes of play as both teams struggled to grip the wet ball, and the first of the two contests ended in a draw. 

GAME ONE FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 8 – BULLDOGS 8 

The young Panthers dominated in the second game, showing impressive teamwork to defeat the Bulldogs 20-0.

Awarded two penalties in the first set, the Bulldogs had all the early possession, only to be met by a tight Panthers defensive line working tirelessly to keep them scoreless. 

When it was finally Penrith’s time to attack, they punished the Bulldogs almost immediately as Riley Pollard broke a tackle and linked up with his halves partner Jaxen Edgar. 

From the ensuing possession, Jacob Kelly crossed the line to put the Penrith juniors ahead by four. 

A strong run by Jermaine Mcewen earned a penalty and the Panthers capitalised as Tana Pupu slipped through the hands of the Bulldogs defence to put the Panthers ahead 8-0. 

It seemed as though the floodgates had opened for Penrith now, with Ollie Seu crossing the line to add to the lead.

Moments later Wilson De Courcey made light work of the Bulldogs defence, gaining significant metres to put the Panthers in excellent position for another try.

Orange-born second rower Angus Thompson then touched down as the buzzer sounded. 

GAME TWO HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 16 – BULLDOGS 0

The second half was tighter affair as the Bulldogs desperately attempted to get on the scoreboard.

Panthers five-eighth Edgar suffered a late knee injury and required assistance as he hobbled to the sideline, but the team wasn't finished yet.

In the 32nd minute Jacob Kelly found a crack in the tired Canterbury defence to complete a comprehensive Panthers victory.

GAME TWO FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 20 – BULLDOGS 0