Penrith Panthers overcame a double-digit deficit to defeat Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 32-20 in the second last round of the Tarsha Gale Cup competition at BlueBet Stadium on Saturday.
The Bulldogs tested Penrith in the opening half of the match, leading the home side by eight at half-time, but the Panthers came out of the sheds firing in the second half.
Panthers captain Taytana Ifopo set up the play that opened Penrith’s account, spreading the ball from right to left through the hands of Natalie Vaka to find winger Siulolovao Vave.
Vaka’s quick pass caught Vave of guard, as she struggled to hang onto the ball but eventually found possession before diving over in the corner.
Ifopo nailed her conversion attempt from the sideline, extending the Panthers' lead to six.
But the Bulldogs were quick to respond with Abigayle Sekitoga taking advantage of a three-on-two overlap, charging through the defensive line to score.
Bulldogs five-eighth Monalisa Soliola’s conversion fell a metre short of the posts, allowing the Panthers to maintain their lead.
Two minutes later the Bulldogs were in again, capitalising off another overlap, this time on the right edge.
Some crisp passing from Breanah Scerri put centre Piper Spackman in space, who sprinted down the field to put her team in front by two. Soliola failed to add the extras for the Bulldogs in the seconds that followed.
The Bulldogs efforts to strip the ball from the Panthers worked in their favour in the 23rd minute, gaining possession in good field position would allow them to use their building momentum to strike once more.
Finding a gap in the line, Bulldogs centre Bree Stone made no mistake on her charge towards the try-line running around Yasmine Baker to ground the ball in goal with ease. The conversion attempt for Soliola fell slightly left, but Canterbury now had the upper hand.
A late penalty in favour of the Bulldogs gave Soliolia the opportunity to kick a penalty goal, which she nailed from in front to extend her team’s lead to eight upon the stroke of half-time.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 6 - BULLDOGS 14
A mistake from the Bulldogs off the kick-off gave the Panthers an opportunity to make their mark in the first minute.
Penrith lock forward Ilisia Haumono carried a collection of Bulldogs with her to score in the 32nd minute, but the conversion for Ifopo was waved away.
Awarded back-to-back penalties, the Bulldogs tested the Panthers in the minutes that followed, where Sekitoga claimed another try in similar fashion to her first.
Taking on the line, the Canterbury fullback was charged her way through five Panthers to score. This time Soliola’s conversion soars through the sticks to re-gain the Bulldogs’ double-digit advantage.
Hungry to pull themselves back into the game, the Penrith outfit dug deep to create an opportunity.
A brilliant fun from Panthers halfback Brooke Talataina brought her team within 20 metres of their line, before an offload from Ifopo found Baker in the play that followed, who dived over to score.
The skipper’s conversion attempt ricocheted off the crossbar, with the home side trailing by six.
Motivated by her missed kick, Ifopo struck back by breaking the Bulldogs line at speed, fancy footwork helped her weave past Bulldogs fullback Sekitoga to cross the line untouched.
Converting her own try, Ifopo levelled the scores at 20-all with 10 minutes to go.
Penrith winger Linae Williams and Talataina made the most of their team’s efforts, both claiming tries in the dying minutes of the match. added insult to injury for the Bulldogs.
Ifopo nailed both conversions to seal the victory for her team.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 32 – BULLDOGS 20