The Penrith Panthers have this afternoon snatched victory in the dying moments, defeating the Bulldogs 18-16 in front of 13,291 fans at Sportingbet Stadium.
After trailing 10-6 at half-time the Bulldogs fought back to spring into the lead 16-12 with just 10 minutes remaining. It was the Panthers though who stole victory through a Kevin Naiqama try in the 79th minute which was followed up by a Matt Moylan conversion.
Coach Des Hasler was forced to make a number of changes due to injury with Chase Stanley (cork) and Mitch Brown (ankle) being ruled out. Tim Lafai and Drury Low were brought into replace them.
Low was straight into the action when he made an error gifting the home side a repeat set. The Bulldogs defence held strong until the last when Jamie Soward put in a cross-kick to the wing of David Simmons. Simmons got above Corey Thompson, batting the ball back to his centre Dean Whare who athletically got the ball over for a try in the right hand corner. With Peter Wallace out of the Panthers side it was Matt Moylan with the kicking duties. He couldn’t convert with the score remaining 4-nil after five minutes of play.
The Bulldogs discipline was letting them down with the Panthers controlling the match and the visitors not helping themselves either in possession. A penalty put the Panthers in good field possession and again they got to the last tackle and a Soward kick was put towards Thompson once again. The height difference between Thompson and Simmons was proving to be the difference with the rangy winger coming down with the ball to score. Moylan had learnt from his first effort and slotted it over to put the lead out to 10-nil after 22 minutes.
Five minutes later the Bulldogs had composed themselves and managed to open their account through halfback Trent Hodkinson. Inside their own half, it was Frank Pritchard who spotted the gap on the short side and a cut-out pass to Thompson sent him into space. The winger carried from 20m before finding Josh Morris on the inside, he quickly got the ball away to Hodkinson and the Cabramatta went 40m untouched to score. He converted his own try to close the gap to 10-6.
There were no further points added for the remainder of the half with the home side going to the rooms leading 10-6.
The 49th minute saw the Panthers extend their lead out to a converted try after a Moylan penalty goal. The Panthers had claimed a try but it was called back with Josh Reynolds tackling Elijah Taylor without the ball. The home side elected to take the kick, putting them in front 12-6.
Tim Lafai had a try disallowed in the 54th minute when he picked up the scraps from a kick but the Campbelltown junior couldn’t stay in the field of play giving possession back to the Panthers 10m out from their own line.
Panthers back rower Adam Docker was placed on report in the 55th minute after picking James Graham up and putting him beyond the horizontal.
A possession shift saw the Bulldogs get on top and with that came the blue and whites second try. A Pritchard offload saw the recently re-signed Josh Morris sent into open space. After the Kiama junior was brought down, the next play saw Reynolds dart down the short side and he gave the ball to his left to Thompson who crossed for his second NRL try. Hodkinson beautifully converted from the sideline to level the scores at 12-all after 67 minutes.
A Reynolds inspired period saw the five-eighth take control of the match. After a Simmons mistake, Reynolds received the ball from the set scrum and carried the ball across field getting outside of Kevin Naiqama and then handing it over to Low who cruised over to score. Hodkinson pushed the kick to the right of the uprights to leave the Bulldogs in front for the first time of the afternoon, 16-12.
With just three minutes remaining the Bulldogs were still on top but two penalties against the blue and whites gave the home side one last throw of the dice. With the Penrith faithful behind them, it was Soward who showed it right, then pulled back to the left and a 15m pass to Naiqama put him into space and as he crossed, the home side rejoiced bringing the scores level at 16-all. Moylan was given the opportunity to snatch victory and he didn’t disappoint, slotting it over. The fullback was mobbed by his team mates as the final siren sounded giving the Panthers a 18-16 victory.
The Bulldogs will next week travel to Perth to take on the Storm on Saturday afternoon. Kick-off will be 4.30pm local time (7.30 in Sydney).
PANTHERS 18 (Whare, Simmons, Naiqama Tries; Moylan 3 Goals)
BULLDOGS 16 (Hodkinson, Thompson, Low Tries; Hodkinson 2 Goals)
At: Sportingbet Stadium, Penrith