Panthers send the Bears packing

Panthers send the Bears packing
Penrith Panthers NSW Cup v North Sydney Bears, Pepper Stadium, Penrith. Photo by Jeff Lambert (Penrith Panthers)

Andy Saunders and Sam Clune scored doubles as the NSW Cup Panthers pumped North Sydney 42-10 at Pepper Stadium.

Penrith began their assault immediately, dominating possession in the opening minutes of the match. The strong stepping of Leilani Latu triggered momentum down the right, and the Panthers pack enjoyed fast and consecutive sets.

The Panthers were gifted a penalty just five minutes into play, and James Fisher-Harris jumped at the opportunity to obliterate past three Bears defenders to make considerable ground. A sequence of fast passing set Sam Clune up perfectly to both dodge and dummy his way over the line. Josh Hall was unable to convert, leaving the Panthers out in front 4-0.

Clune continued to make an impression with his quick and reliable kicking despite the Penrith heat. Penrith worked the ball close to the Bears line, drawing three penalties within the space of only three minutes. The quick hands of Penrith second rower Tupou Sopoaga ignited a spontaneous Panthers attack that featured Moses Leota execute a dive to keep the ball alive. Clune sent a bomb soon after in the direction of Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, who successfully crossed for Penrith. A successful conversion by Hall placed his team in the lead 10 – 0 after 12 minutes.

North Sydney spent the remainder of the half attempting to break through Penrith’s formidable line of defence. In the 23rd minute the Bears unexpectedly roared down the left, but were halted just 10 metres out. Penrith capitalised on a quick change of possession and wasted no time in playing the ball. Corey Harawira-Naera was able to break and offload to Clune who then scored in the 25th minute. Penrith jumped to 16 – 0 after Josh Hall executed the conversion kick.

Andrew Hefferman’s arduous tackles and reliable catching by Will Smith denied North Sydney any chance at building a slither of momentum down the field. Josh Hall displayed a sequence of speedy and agile stepping that had the small crowd at Pepper Stadium on their feet.

Andy Saunders ran desperately at the Bears line, and his backchat cost his squad an opportunity to score. In the 36th minute Saunders redeemed himself with a 40 metre sprint to cross. A successful conversion placed Penrith in front 22 – 0.

Despite a comfortable lead, the Panthers pack played hard until the siren, drawing a penalty in the last seconds of the half. Josh hall executed the penalty kick to put Penrith up to 24 – 0.

HALFTIME Panthers 24 – 0

The second half saw both squads return to the field with a rejuvenated drive. Andy Saunders made an impression 44 minutes in by charging his way past Bears forwards to slam the ball under the posts. A successful conversion put Penrith further ahead 30 – 0.

The Bears spent consecutive sets sniffing out the left side of the Panthers line and were eventually rewarded for their perseverance in the 55th minute. Bernard Gregorius was able to score inside the corner, and an unsuccessful Bears conversion left North Sydney trailing 30 – 4.

The Bears rode on their newfound momentum and in the 62nd minute Bernard Gregorius was blessed with a kind grubber to snatch up and cross. Gregorius’ second try was matched with a successful conversion, putting the Bears up 30 – 10.

The Penrith pack subsequently began to put the Bears in their place, with Te Maire Martin winning his side consecutive sets. Penrith utility Leilani Latu was able to burrow over from close range to score in the 67th minute. Josh Hall’s conversion upped his team to a 36 – 10 lead. The 70th minute saw Will Smith kick a 40/20 and soon after whisk up the ball to dart around the posts and cross. Another successful Hall conversion placed Penrith confidently in front 42 – 10.

North Sydney missed a final chance to score when Latu threw an intercept – their last minute break was halted by the quick and agile Josh Hall. The final siren saw the Panthers finish convincingly out in front and celebrating their fresh momentum.

FULLTIME Panthers 42 – 10

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