A resilient Panthers side struck by injury was able to produce an impressive comeback from half-time and post a 22-14 victory over the Bulldogs at Panthers stadium.
The game started well for the Bulldogs. They scored the first try in the 15th minute and after Dylan Edwards went off injured, the reshuffled backline allowed them to score an easy try against incredibly poor edge defence from the Panthers.
With the Dogs marching up field it seemed like they’d go on to win comfortably but the Panthers rallied together and hit back with a try on the eve of half-time.
From there it was all the Panthers in the 2nd half as they tightened up their defence, posted two tries and kept the Dogs tryless as they seemed to run out of ideas once again.
Proceedings got heated in the final 15 as Trent Merrin appeared to get away with a slap in a push and shove circle while a fired up Klemmer got binned with 2 minutes to go .
Edwards injury adds to casualty ward
Panthers Fullback Dylan Edwards is set for a stint on the sidelines after injuring his shoulder in a bad landing from a tackle near the try-line.
The positional changes that followed were disastrous as Villiame Kikau was played at left centre and struggled.
They eventually fixed it by moving Isaah Yeo there and won the game but it’s leaving the Panthers very light on depth with back-rowers in the centres and raiding their reserve grade squad just to fill positions.
With the Panthers current injury toll, they’ll be unable to even name a fit 21-man squad on team-list Tuesday. In some optimistic news though, Tyrone May is rated a chance of returning next week.
Panthers incredibly resilient in face of adversity
With Peter Wallace ruled out pre-game, the Panthers were already dealt a tough hand and the injury to Edwards poured salt on the wound.
However the Panthers were able to overcome all that and a 12-2 deficit in an impressive performance.
First time captain James Maloney was instrumental as always in leading his team to victory, with coach Griffin praising him in the post-match conference about the level of control he brings to the team with his kicking game and decision making.
His level of composure under pressure was excellent and it seems that no matter what gets thrown their way, the Panthers side have been able to deal with it and now sit 2nd on the ladder.
Reduced penalty count results in free flowing game
Whether it’s a case of players finally adapting to the new style of refereeing and adjusting their discipline or the officials just deciding to put the whistle away for the night, the lower penalty count of 14 made for a much more exciting contest.
Joey Johns, a noted referee complainer, mentioned in commentary how it benefited the quality of the match and it certainly allowed the Panthers to exercise their style of unconventional footy rather than relying on set plays from penalties.
Dogs still struggling to put it all together
Despite a good start the Dogs were hopeless in attack for another week. The only tries they scored came about when Griffin made the baffling decision to play Kikau in the centres and they exploited it. Otherwise they rarely looked like firing off a shot.
After some improved performances over the last fortnight, Aaron Woods had a bad night out with a couple of dropped balls and penalties given away. Kieran Foran was just about the Invisible Man as he struggled to make his mark on the game.
With a new look team, coach and even a number of changes behind the scenes, it’s going to take time for the Dogs to find coherency but right now the signs aren’t looking good.
It’s a long season and things can change but at present it looks like the spoon might start to become a possibility.
This shot from Dean Whare on Jeremy Marshall-King
The game’s result had already been decided but it’s moments like this that epitomised what the Panthers were all about on the night.
Tries: Corey Harawira-Naera (38m), Moses Leota (45m), Isaah Yeo (66m)
Goals: James Maloney 5/6
Tries: Marcelo Montoya (15m), Will Hopoate (24m)
Goals: Moses Mbye 3/3