By Andrew Stark
The Wyong Roos notched their first win of the new season with a highly entertaining 30-26 victory over the Penrith Panthers under lights at Kanwal.
The visitors began full of running and attacked strongly during the earliest of exchanges however the Roos defence held firm. Wyong opened the scoring when Darren Nicholls latched onto a deflected Alex Langbridge grubber kick after eight minutes. Penrith levelled things up in the 19th minute when prop Sam Anderson began his night of try scoring heroics by crashing over beside the uprights following a concerted period of pink offence.
A storm had been brewing from the south for much of the afternoon and the remainder of the opening half was played out amidst squally gusts of wind and sporadic bursts of drizzle. With seven minutes of the period remaining Nicholls took advantage of the breeze, piloting a 40 metre penalty goal through the northern uprights and well beyond.
The Roos advantage was lost three minutes later however when seasoned backrower Nathan Smith offloaded nicely in traffic to enable impressive young prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard to reach out with a long right arm to score. Will Smith’s conversion took Penrith into the sheds 12-8 ahead.
Wyong bounded from the break with the greater resolve and would dominate the second stanza. Crowd favourite Mark O’Meley was held up over the line and the Roos went close again via a well chased Todd Lewis grubber kick.
Reward for field position and possession finally arrived when in the 54th minute former Melbourne NYC rake Alex Langbridge stepped and jinked and then stepped again, scurrying his way right through the meat of the Penrith ruck to score a sparkling solo try that once converted, had edged Wyong back in front 14-12.
Dale Clacherty took advantage of an overlap to spear into the right corner three minutes later and when former Test prop O’Meley crashed over shortly thereafter, the Joe Bishop Stand erupted with green and gold delight.
The Roos extended their lead to 30-12 with a quarter of an hour to play when the master of the ruck, Mitch Williams darted from dummy half to lay on a second for his trailing scrum half ‘Dezzie’ Nicholls.
Amazingly, from 30-12 with just ten minutes remaining, the game would ultimately come down to the final play. A flurry of Penrith tries, to Sam Anderson (70th & 76th minutes) and Tom Eisenhuth (78th minute) narrowed the margin to four.
And with a minute left on the clock the Panthers waved their final conversion attempt to push for a winning try. The game’s final act, played out five seconds prior to the hand shake, saw the elusive Will Smith tear up centre field from deep inside his own half before kicking ahead on the angle for his fast moving supports.
The Morry Breen faithful had their hearts in their mouths until a flash of ginger swooped suddenly into view, Jay Florimo winning the race back to scoop up the dangerously eddying Steeden before haring across the eastern touchline with a grin that stretched from ear to ear.
The Roos will be at home once more this Saturday when they host the Tigers while the Panthers return home to host the Bulldogs.
Wyong Roos 30 (D Nicholls 2, M O’Meley, D Clacherty, A Langbridge tries; D Nicholls 5 goals) def. Penrith Panthers 26 (S Anderson 3, R Campbell-Gillard, T Eisenhuth tries; W Smith 3 goals) at Morry Breen Oval.