The Panthers were outperformed by North Sydney Bears in a 28-16 Tarsha Gale Cup defeat at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday.
Panthers captain Taytan Ifopo set up two tries and scored one, but it wasn’t enough to secure the victory, with Bears captain Chloe Jackson putting on a similar display of talent.
The Panthers made a fast start to the game, capitalising off a penalty in the first set. Ifopo kicked to the corner for centre Otile Manakofua to take possession and cross the line in the third minute.
The Bears responded in the 10th minute with Jackson dragging four Panthers over the line to level the score.
Riding a wave of momentum, Gloria Kaati bagged an extra four points for the Bears in the 13th minute, muscling her way through a crowd of Panthers defenders in the corner.
Bears halfback Sienna Williams found space in the fatigued Panthers line to weave through and extend the Bears’ lead to eight with nine minutes left in the half.
But a clever short ball from Ifopo to Kahliah Brown bought the Panthers back into the game.
Receiving an offside penalty for offside, hooker Natalie Vaka scooped up the ball from dummy half and dived over beside the posts, with Ifpopo converting shortly after to take the score to 10-12.
A knock on by the Panthers in the 25th minute allowed the Bears to find an overlap on the right side, with Grace-Lee Weekes receiving a cut-out ball from Jackson to but the ball down in the corner untouched, taking the Bears’ lead back out to six.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 10 – BEARS 16
The Bears continued their dominance in the second half with Jackson breaking a tackle to steam down the sideline, running through the Panthers line to put the ball down between the posts.
Williams added the extras shortly after, taking the Bears' lead out to 12 in the 36th minute.
Minutes later the Bears found space in the line again, with Williams crossing and converting her own try to take the score to 28-10 in the 39th minute.
As time went on, the Bears continued to hold out the tiring Panthers with a strong defensive line and solid tackles.
But the Panthers had the final say as Ifopo found space and a beat a collection of Bears defenders to cross beside the posts.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 16 – BEARS 28