On a night where luck deserted them, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs rallied late against the Panthers but ran out of time, going down 22-16 in front of 11,832 fans.
Josh Reynolds returned to the fold having served his three-match suspension while the Bulldogs also welcomed back David Klemmer, who was named on the bench. In one late change Chase Stanley took the place of Mitch Brown on the wing, with Brown succumbing to a hand injury.
Bulldogs were out to not only avenge their last-minute defeat at the hands of Penrith back in Round 3, where a Matt Moylan conversion from the sideline sealed a 18-16 win but also to mark Sam Perrett’s 200th NRL game with a win.
It wasn’t to be though with three tries denied by the video referee in a frustrating first half proving telling in the end. A late rally of 16 points in the final 12 minutes from the Bulldogs wasn’t enough to chase down the Panthers, who ran out 22-16 victors.
A penalty in the 3rd minute gave the Bulldogs the first attacking opportunity of the match, starting their set 25m out from Penrith’s line. A try went begging though when a Sam Kasiano offload was just out of reach of Trent Hodkinson in support.
Panthers were not long after given an opportunity of their own to attack, also on the back of a penalty. After being held up on the second tackle, the Panthers came again via hooker James Segeyaro who burrowed his way to the line from dummy half to score under the posts. Jamie Soward converted for a 6-0 lead in the 8th minute.
It took until the 22nd minute for the Bulldogs to mount some kind of response, with Chase Stanley looking to mark his return with a try. Stanley looked to have scored in the corner on the back of a half-break from Moses Mbye. However, the video referee ruled no try in a decision that could have gone either way. Stanley was ushered up the tunnel afterwards, nursing a dislocated shoulder.
From the subsequent set of six, Penrith made an error gifting Bulldogs another chance. The reshuffled backline of Mbye and Tim Lafai on the left and Josh Jackson and Corey Thompson on the right were straight into action with Thompson crossing in the corner. However, it was again denied by the video referee with obstruction ruled. In the process, Penrith lost second-rower Elijah Taylor with an ACL injury that will unfortunately see him miss the rest of the season.
Back to back penalties in the 25th minute put the Bulldogs on the attack yet again and they crossed the stripe for a third time but were denied once more by the video referee. This time in controversial circumstances with Lafai ruled to have lost control of the ball after he jinked his way through the Penrith defence.
In a see-sawing encounter, there was plenty of entertaining football played up until the break but neither side cracked leaving things 6-0.
Michael Ennis topped the half-time tackle count with 25 while James Graham chimed in with 12 hit-ups and 20 tackles of his own.
In the 46th minute the video referee was again called into action, this time for Penrith with Segeyaro claiming a second try after a Soward kick rebounded favourably off Kasiano. It was given the green light and after Soward added the extras, the scoreboard read 12-0.
Penrith extended their lead further in the 52nd minute through winger Josh Mansour who scored untouched after the visiting team shifted the ball left. Soward missed the conversion to leave the score 16-0.
A great piece of work from Thompson in the 62nd minute to get out of his own goal looked to have relieved the pressure but another mistake put Penrith in dangerous territory again, searching for their fourth try of the night. They found it via Moylan who charged onto a Soward pass. Soward slotted the conversion for a 22-0 lead.
Bulldogs soon after charged up field on the back of Mbye cleverly finding touch from the 20m restart, which eventually led to Lafai forcing his way over in the 68th minute. Hodksinson failed to convert leaving it 22-4.
Kasiano then collected his third try of the season with just four minutes remaining on the back of a skilful Tony Williams offload. Hodkinson added the two to cut the lead down to 22-10.
In a late rally, the Bulldogs look set to cross again after Kasiano burst through at the half-way line before releasing Mbye. Mbye put boot to ball which saw Lafai and Soward in a foot race to the line. Soward saved the day.
From the dropout and with only seconds remaining on the clock, Hodkinson dived over in the corner before converting his own try to leave the score 22-16 at full-time.
Bulldogs next Friday night play at Suncorp Stadium against the Broncos, with kick-off at 7:45pm local time.
PANTHERS 22 (Segeyaro 2, Mansour, Moylan Tries; Soward 3 Goals) def. BULLDOGS 16 (Lafai, Kasiano, Hodkinson Tries; Hodkinson 2 Goals)
At: ANZ Stadium