By Emma Duxbury
Panthers VB NSW Cup coach Garth Brennan finally has something to smile about after posting his first win of the season at Sportingbet Stadium, a 22-12 win over Canterbury.
The first 17 minutes of the match were scoreless as both sides pushed hard and attacked their lines, but it was the Bulldogs who scored first. Centre Tyrone Phillips stunned Penrith’s backline, after taking a short ball from centre Levi Dodd on the 10m line, and simply running through some open space to score behind the posts. The conversion was successful and the visitors took an early 6-0 lead.
In the next play, Panthers fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak copped a high shot to the head and was taken off the field as a precaution. Bulldogs winger Kayne Brennan was placed on report over the incident.
Play continued for another 10 minutes with mistakes from both sides, but a lot of good defence at the same time. Penrith got the ball up to opposition’s line and for the next few minutes they had several decent cracks at getting over, and then finally, Shaun Spence put first points on the board. He positioned himself about a metre back from the line and patiently waited until the ball found his hands, before he burrowed his way over the line. Wes Naiqama converted, and Penrith had levelled the scores 6-all.
A few minutes later, Watene-Zelezniak, who had been cleared to play after that head knock, came back onto the field on the wing, and after a dominant spell, Leilani Latu sent the ball from the centre of the field out to the right, where it passed through several players before reaching Tom Eisenhuth, who gave Watene-Zelezniak a beautiful ball and just enough room to dive over to score. Naiqama made the difficult sideline conversion, and with a few minutes on the clock, the home side took the lead 12-6.
The second half started like the first, with the first 16 minutes playing out with no change to the scoreboard. But this time it was the Panthers who drew first blood through interchange player Mitch Clark, who found some space through the middle and ran in next to the posts to score. Naiqama made it three from three, and the home side extended their lead to 18-6.
The Panthers were dominating the game but the visitors weren’t giving up without a fight and caught Penrith off-guard on their right side at the 55 minute mark, drawing the defenders in and sending winger Kayne Brennan over the line. The kick was on target, the Bulldogs narrowing the score to 18-16.
The Panthers put the final nail in the coffin with 90 seconds on the clock, when Under 20’s recruit Regan Haika took a beautiful ball on the wing to score the match winning try. Naiqama’s final kicked was waved away for a 22-12 victory to the Panthers.
Penrith will look to continue their winning ways when they take on the undefeated Wentworthville Magpies at Ringrose Oval on Sunday; whilst the Dogs will host the Wyong Roos at Belmore Sports Ground.
Penrith Panthers 22 (S Spence, D Watene-Zelezniak, R Haika, M Clark tries; W Naiqama 3 goals) def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 (K Brennan, T Phillips tries; P Templeman 2 goals) at Sportingbet Stadium.