The Canterbury Bulldogs are barking tonight after stealing the momentum away from a gallant Penrith side to record a 28-22 win that sees the away side leap the Panthers into seventh spot with just one round remaining.
The Panthers, having trailed 18-4 mid-way through the first half staged a comeback either side of half-time to lead 22-18 midway through the second-half.
But the Bulldogs despite being reduced to twelve after referee Liam Nicholls sin-binned Makahesi Makatoa, stormed home through an unlikely double to prop Lloyd Perrett.
The Panthers, with results still pending are currently in a three-way tie for eighth and now face the real prospect that a win away in Auckland next Saturday may still not be enough to secure a spot in the finals.
The home side started brightly enough capitalising on early possession with a well-worked try to winger Zac Mackay in the seventh minute courtesy of Te Maire Martin’s long cut-out ass that caught the Bulldogs outside defence napping.
But the Bulldogs once they received their fair share of possession dominated the game with three converted tries to open up an 18-4 lead midway through the first half.
Former Panther, Harry Siejka sent play right and quick hands allowed Ruebenn Rennie to bust the line before finding Tyrone Phillips backing up inside to score out wide.
The Bulldogs soon had their second as they continued to starve the home side of possession, with Marcelo Montoya scoring in the left corner.
A controversial moment in the game occurred in the 26th minute when Liam Nicholls awarded a try to Bulldogs’ Lamar Liolelave who swooped on Martin’s inability to recover the loose pass to score the easiest of tries much to the aghast of the home side who felt Perrett played at the ball in the lead-up to the try.
The Panthers with their season on the line hit back in fine style to trail by two at the break.
A hit and spin try to prop Moses Leota from close range in the 34th minute was backed up on the last play before halftime when Te Maire Martin opted to take play left and again produced a long cut-out pass that enabled Chris Aunese-Scanlan to go over in the left corner, converted brilliantly by Zach Dockar-Clay.
As they did in the first half, the Panthers wrestled controlled of the game early in the second half to lead 22-18, when back-rower Corey Haraweira-Naera ran a great line to reach out and score.
Having conceded five straight penalties, Liam Nicholls made good on his promise to sin-bin the next Bulldogs to impede when Makatoa was sent to the sin-bin midway through the second-half.
But the Bulldogs having dodged a bullet after Haraweira-Naera was denied what would have been a superb double after Nicholls ruled a double movement, took back the lead when the Lloyd Perrett took advantage of some slow line speed in defence from the Panthers to score from close range.
Perrett’s second try five minutes later was a reward for perseverance as Siejka’s attacking kick was allowed to bounce and the prop showed great athleticism in regathering and going over to score what turned out to be the match-winning try, despite the best efforts of the home side to at least level the score.
Penrith who went into this game down on troops after losing Andrew Heffernan (shoulder) and Josh Hall (back) to injury, will be sweating that they don’t lose Brendon Attwood for next Saturday’s must win clash against the NZ Warriors after being placed on report.
Conversely the Bulldogs go into next Saturday’s clash away to an equally desperate North Sydney side knowing that they now have control of their finals destiny.
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