Panthers pipped in heartbreaker

Panthers pipped in heartbreaker
Competition – NRL Premiership

Round – Round 02

Teams – Bulldogs v Penrith Panthers

Date – 10th or March 2016

Venue – Pepper Stadium Penrith, Sydney NSW

Photographer – Grant Trouville

Description –

The Panthers have suffered a crushing two-point defeat in the last 30 seconds of the game to lose 16-18 to the Bulldogs at Pepper Stadium on Thursday night.

A strong hit from Reagan Campbell-Gillard on Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman in the opening minute gave the Panthers first attacking use of the ball, and after a sound set they were able to earn a goal-line drop out.

They went again and it didn’t take long until Jamie Soward placed a grubber kick through for Peta Hiku to grab his second try of the season. Soward was able to convert with pin-point precision to make it 6-0 after 5 minutes of play.

Sam McKendry put the Panthers further in front in the 10th minute when he forced his way through the Bulldogs wall of defence to plant the ball down for a try. With the try scored under the posts it was a walk in the park for Soward to put the Panthers in front 12-0.

The Dogs worked it close to the Panthers’ line in the 15th minute and quick passing had them pressing for a try, however the speed of spreading the ball proved to be their downfall as they dropped the ball.

Penrith received a penalty and quickly moved it up field; first earning a repeat set and then bagging another penalty from a James Graham shoulder charge. They took the penalty kick and Soward made it 14-0.

The Panthers’ ride continued as Moses Mbye’s kick-off went too deep, handing the home-side a penalty on the half-way line. However it turned out to be short-lived, as Mbye redeemed himself in the next set with a stunning run that put Will Hopoate in under the sticks after 23 minutes.  An easy conversion for the man-of-the-moment pegged the Dogs back to trail 14-6.

Canterbury could have been in again with 8 minutes to go had it not been for a Waqa Blake touch on a corner-of-the-field pass. Two successive penalties to the Dogs in the following set allowed them to apply the pressure to the Panthers, but a wayward pass from James Graham eventually let them down.

A mammoth kick from Jamie Soward propelled the Panthers downfield and it sat up just in time for Bulldogs fullback Will Hopoate to have to make a play at the ball. Penrith pinned the custodian in his in-goal to earn a repeat set but couldn’t build on their eight-point lead before halftime.

Halftime: Panthers 14 Bulldogs 8

It was a topsy-turvy start to the second half with both sides turning the ball over on multiple occasions and each receiving penalties in the opening minutes. The Panthers benefited from a Moses Mbye knock-on, gaining an extra set-of-six within 10 metres of the Bulldogs’ line. Not long after they were awarded a penalty and the close range was too good to refuse as Soward took the two-points.

Soward was in the thick of it in the next couple of sets; first having a tiff with Josh Jackson after he was hit late following a kick, and then earning a penalty running the ball out of the Panthers’ end.

Leading 16-6 in the 56th minute, the Panthers put up a high cross-field kick to finish their set and Josh Mansour pounced on a Bulldogs’ fumble to have what looked like a sure four-pointer. But it wasn’t to be as the referral to the NRL Bunker came back with an offside ruling.

Despite Josh Mansour producing a try-saving cover tackle in the 60th minute, the Panthers couldn’t stop the Dogs from scoring with Mbye taking an inside line off Will Hopoate on the next play to grab a try. Kerrod Holland converted for the Dogs to bring it back to 16-12.

The Bulldogs’ halfback was at it again, taking a 40-metre run out of his own half which moved the Dogs to the other end to grab a goal-line drop out. Hustling defence from the Panthers saved them from more punishment as they pushed Kerrod Holland out over the sideline.

The errors kept coming from both sides in the remaining 15 minutes but they didn’t stop the excitement with the fans kept on the edge of their seats as the game looked to go either way in the final moments.

The Bulldogs grabbed a repeat set via a line drop out with two-minutes left and they soon scooted across the Panthers’ defence with Moses Mbye busting through for a try with just 30 seconds left to play.

In his debut for the club, Kerrod Holland was able to overcome the pressure and kick the match-winning conversion to leave the final score at 18-16 to the Bulldogs.

Fulltime: Panthers 16 Bulldogs 18

Crowd: 11,125

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