A last minute try to the Panthers through AFL convert Josh Hall has given the home side a 24-20 victory over the Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium this evening.
The real contest was played in the opening 40 minutes, with all regular NRL players taking to the field. It was the Bulldogs who took the points in the opening half, with a 14-12 lead after 40 minutes.
The opening 10 minutes was forgettable for both teams with a number of penalties awarded and errors committed. Sam Kasiano bruised the defence in his early carries whilst Josh Mansour brought the ball back out of dummy half strongly.
In the 16th minute Will Hopoate opened his personal account in blue and white, as well as the account for the team when he went over to score. It was an out-the-back play with halfback Moses Mbye shifting it to the new recruit who sliced through the defence and went over to score. Former Knight Kerrod Holland took the attempt at conversion but it was waved away as he missed it on the near side, leaving the score at 4-nil.
Eight minutes later the lead was extended through Holland. It was a break by Mbye and then a string of four passes that ended with the Singleton Greyhound junior in possession. He cruised over untouched to register his first points in blue and white. Mbye took the attempt at conversion but sliced it wide of the uprights.
In the 29th minute Mansour’s night changed in fortune when he made an error of what seemed to be a regulation kick. Two tackles later Michael Lichaa darted out of dummy half and burrowed under the defence to score. Mbye converted on this occasion to extend the lead out to 14-4.
The Panthers closed the gap before half-time with two converted tries, the first coming through Tupou Sopoaga who was smartly put through a gap by James Segeyaro and the second was through five-eighth Te Maire Martin who burst through the defence and ran 40m untouched to score. Both tries were converted by Matt Moylan, with the blue and whites holding a slender 14-12 lead at the break.
It was a true game played in two halves with all the regular first graders leaving the field and a number of younger players making an appearance in the second stanza.
The opening 10 minutes of the half was all the Panthers, with the Bulldogs not helping themselves, giving away a penalty and also kicking out on the full from a restart.
Chris Smith snared the lead for the home side and then Dallin Watene-Zelezniak crossed for a four-pointer of his own. Both tries couldn’t be converted and the scoreboard read 20-14 after 46 minutes.
A Dane Chisholm cross-kick brought about the next try with Malaki Watene-Zelezniak unable to defuse the kick, new recruit Brad Abbey pounced on the loose ball and went over to score. Brad Keighran took over the kicking duties, converting, to level the score at 20-all with 10 minutes remaining.
AFL convert Josh Hall scored in the 79th minute of play to break the deadlock secure victory for the home side. The try couldn’t be converted with the score staying at 24-20 as the full-time siren sounded.
PANTHERS 24 (Sopoaga, Martin, Smith, Watene-Zelezniak, Hall Tries; Moylan 2 Goals)
BULLDOGS 20 (Hopoate, Holland, Lichaa, Abbey Tries; Mbye 2, Keighran 1 Goals)
At: Pepper Stadium, Penrith