The Panthers scored a come-from-behind 28-18 victory against St George Illawarra Dragons in Round 2 of the Jersey Flegg competition at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday.
Panthers captain Connor Mason created plenty of problems for the Dragons, having a hand in three of the Panthers five tries, bagging a double in the process.
Lock forward Daniel Sykes opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Mason’s grubber kick ricocheted through the Dragons defensive line with Sykes the fastest to react, diving on the ball under the posts to score.
St George hit back minutes later, kicking a 40-20 before a three-on-two overlap gifted unmarked winger Cooper Roberts a four-pointer in the north western corner of BlueBet Stadium.
Sam Hooper levelled the scores with the touchline conversion.
Sloppy defence from Penrith gave St George back-to-back penalties.
In the 31st minute, Hooper slotted a penalty goal from the thirty-metre mark to give the Dragons a two-point lead.
Two minutes later the Dragons claimed another four-pointer, spreading the ball from left to right through the hands of Hayden Budd and Benjamin Johnson before Alexander Lobb touched down.
Hooper was in fine form, nailing another conversion from touch to send St George into the sheds with a handy eight-point lead.
HALF-TIME: DRAGONS 14 - PANTHERS 6
Momentum quickly turned in the second half, an error on the first tackle from the restart gave the Panthers the chance to hit back.
A grubber from Panthers halfback Jack Cole forced a repeat set before Kristian Li Mai reduced the deficit to four in the 37th minute, clawing his way through five Dragons on his way over the line.
Mason’s sideline conversion sailed over, giving the licorice-allsorts plenty to be happy about.
Panthers fullback William Fakatoumafi set up the play of the game, returning the ball from inside the ten metre line he cut through the defensive line before linking with Mason. With the Dragons scrambling to get back the captain weaved his away across the field before straightening up to split the line again, running the ball under the posts in the process to score an unforgettable four-pointer.
His third conversion of the day gave his side an 18-14 lead.
The Panthers skipper masterminded the next try, ploughing through the Dragons line in the 55th minute to bag his second try in a matter of minutes. The conversion gave the Panthers a double-digit lead for the first time in the game.
Halves partners Cole and Isaiah Iongi combined for the next try. The number seven placed a grubber in the path of Iongi, who won the race to the footy.
An uncharacteristic miss from Mason meant the score remained 28-14.
Dragons second-rower Duke Grant bagged a consolation four-pointer in the 68th minute, his efforts doing little to dampen the mood for the Panthers who recorded their second win in succession.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 28 - DRAGONS 18