The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have held out a gallant Penrith Panthers outfit at St Marys Leagues Stadium, prevailing 18-14 in their second win in the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW.
At 20 years of age, usual bench player Lachlan Lewis sufficiently filled the shoes of NRL debutant Matt Frawley in the halves, alongside Josh Cleeland who looked dangerous for the game's duration. Panthers rake Mitch Rein also played strongly and while the home side were not too far off the pace, the Bulldogs put forward their best performance of the year to register back-to-back wins.
Things started strongly for the Bulldogs, with prop Francis Tualau crossing from dummy-half on the back of a penalty. The Panthers' Mitch Rein, however, continued to show he has the ability of the top grade with a four-pointer of his own just five minutes later. Both tries were converted for a 6-6 scoreline early on.
From then on, it was all the visitors with two of their key men contributing to a handy lead. Five-eighth Josh Cleeland crossed from close range as the first quarter of the game came to a close, before no.9 Craig Garvey made the most of some lacklustre Panthers defence under the posts. With successive conversions from Rhyse Martin, Canterbury-Bankstown led Penrith 18-6.
As the half-time break approached, the Bulldogs weren't letting up and frequently found themselves in an attacking position. Halves Cleeland and Lachlan Lewis shared in forced dropouts in the final stages, with Cleeland almost earning a third repeat set before Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards got his side out of trouble. Scores remained 18-6 as the sides headed into the sheds at St Marys.
The third quarter of the game looked like bringing no points, with an arm wrestle developing between the two sides. The Panthers eventually mounted pressure with a forced dropout, however, and in the 67th minute Jarome Luai and Edwards brilliantly combined for a well-deserved try. Only coming into the Intrust Super Premiership NSW side for the first time last week - via the wing - Luai put his dazzling sidestep and blistering pace to good use by breaking through the Bulldogs defence, offloading to Edwards who crossed for the Panthers' second. The conversion was missed for an 18-10 scoreline.
With a newfound enthusiasm for the Panthers, it was just a wayward Lachlan Stein pass preventing what could have been an immediate compounding try. While momentum appeared to have swung in the last 20 minutes and the Penrith side kept at the Bulldogs' throats, it was not until the final minute of play that they were able to break the defence again; an unconverted Lachlan Stein try was not enough to make up the eight-point deficit and brought final scores to 18-14.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 18 (F Tualau, C Garvey, J Cleeland tries; R Martin 3 goals) def Penrith Panthers 14 (M Rein, D Edwards, L Stein tries; D Nicholls goal)