Dogs claim scrappy
victory over Panthers

Round 26
Penrith Panthers 22 v Canterbury Bulldogs 30
at CUA Stadium, Penrith
Referee: Tony Archer

Match Summary:

The Canterbury Bulldogs have spoiled John Lang?s farewell party in claiming an uninspiring 30-22 victory over the Penrith Panthers amid trying conditions.

The superior boot of Hazem El Masri proved to be the difference as both sides ran in five tries each in a sometimes entertaining game. But with a very strong wind and periods of showers the game failed to reach any lofty heights. The fact nothing other than pride was on the line probably assisted in keeping the game as an average encounter with Canterbury seemingly having their eye on next week?s semi-final against Canberra during periods throughout the second half.

Penrith dashed to an early lead through captain Tony Puletua after Canterbury kicked dead on the full from the kick-off before the visitors hit back five minutes later with a try to Chris Armit and the conversion from El Masri put them in front.

The Panthers were tenacious at times though and clearly wanted to end-off their departing stars and coach with a win. They put two tries back to back to open up a 12-6 lead when powerful winger Michael Gordon snapped up a kick in the 17th minute before a super effort from Paul Aiton in the 25th put the Doggies on notice.

Canterbury squared the ledger five minutes later when Luke Patten scored the first of his two tries and the scores remained unchanged as the teams headed into the sheds for halftime.

With Patten scoring again just following the break to take the score to 18-12 it appeared as though the visitors may run away with things particularly since Preston Campbell and Luke Rooney failed to return to the field. But in a great turnaround Penrith put on two tries through electric fullback Rhys Wesser, which was spectacular, and barnstorming backrower Trent Waterhouse and with Gordon adding one goal the Panthers looked pretty good at 22-18.

As the game wore away, sadly the Panthers did too. Matt Utai scored in the 60th minute with replacement forward Dallas McIllwain grabbing another in the 70th. El Masri?s perfect boot allowed a comfortable 8-point gap and the Doggies held on from there.

Canterbury will now host the Canberra Raiders at Telstra Stadium next Saturday at 8.30pm with a keen eye to book a Grand Final Qualifier in week 3 of the semis. They will welcome back inspirational forward Willie Mason which will be a welcome boost.

For Penrith, their season is now over but under the circumstances I think they had a reasonable year. Constant injuries, in particular to star halfback Craig Gower, was a thorn in the side and they only had a modest playing list to begin with. Whilst John Lang took them to a premiership and was a superb coach, incoming Matt Elliott will no doubt bring a fresh feel to the club and something to look forward to in 2007.

Penrith Panthers: 22
Tries: Tony Puletua, Trent Waterhouse, Rhys Wesser, Paul Aiton, Michael Gordon
Goals: Michael Gordon 1/2
Canterbury Bulldogs: 30
Tries: Chris Armit, Dallas McIlwain, Luke Patten(2), Matthew Utai
Goals: Hazem El Masri 5/5

By the Clock:
Hot and steamy day out here at Penrith where the Panthers will be looking to send off coach John Lang with a victory. A strong breeze blowing out here.

Changes: Panthers halfback Craig Gower has again succumbed to injury and is replaced by Craig Trindall. Matt Bell comes onto the bench.

Bulldogs are as per the program.

1 min: NEWS Canterbury gets us underway with a kick-off that goes dead on the full.

2 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
Trindall and Stapleton conspire on the short side to put captain Tony Puletua over the line for the first try of the day. Campbell can't convert.
Panthers 4-0

7 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
As the Bulldogs press close to the line, Armit steams onto the ball and grounds it next to the posts. There was a hint of a loose ball but the video ref has awarded the try. El Masri converts easily.
Bulldogs 6-4

14 min: NEWS The Panthers made a good break through Gordon and Pritchard backs up only to commit a double-movement and squander a good opportunity.

17 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
A clever kick by Campbell finds it's way into the in goal area and Michael Gordon swoops on it after it going through Matt Utai's legs. Campbell can't convert with this gale force at work.
Panthers 8-6

24 min: NEWS Another double movement ruling here this time against Daniel Holdsworth.

25 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
Super try from replacement Paul Aiton as Craig Trindall starts the movement along with Tony Puletua and Lee Hookey. Campbell misses again.
Panthers 12-6

30 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Luke Patten picks up some scraps following a loose pass and scores under the posts. El Masri converts.
12 all.

35 min: NEWS Preston Campbell struggling with an ankle injury.

40 min: NEWS Halftime: It's been an interesting contest out here at Penrith Park. The Panthers have scored three tries to two but with unsuccessful conversions the Bulldogs have squared the ledger at 12-all.

This one could go anywhere from there but you'd imagine that the Bulldogs would want to put in a solid effort heading into the semis.

41 min: NEWS Underway in the second half. Campbell and Rooney don't make it back for the second half.

42 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Patten gets on the outside of Pritchard and races away for his second of the day. El Masri gets the kick from the touchline in difficult circumstances.
Bulldogs 18-12

44 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
Electric fullback Rhys Wesser finishes off a great move including Gordon and Waterhouse to score for the Panthers. Gordon converts with Campbell off the field and we're locked up again.
18 all.

50 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
Waterhouse crashes over the line after exposing a lazy Sonny Bill and the Panthers press ahead again. Gordon splays it but the conditions are terrible. It's started to rain and the wind has picked up even further.
Panthers 22-18

60 min: NEWS The Panthers are starting to gain some further momentum and an upset is on the cards here.

60 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Some good work out wide from the Dogs, using their numbers, Maitua gets it to Utai and he brings it around to score next to the posts. El Masris converts to take the lead back for the Bulldogs.
Bulldogs 24-22

70 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs
Looks like the Bulldogs will win this one, but they haven't been too enthusiastic today. Dallas McIllwain crosses for the club and El Masri converts to open up an 8-point lead.
Bulldogs 30-22

80 min: NEWS Canterbury come away with a scrappy win but will now look to focus on the semi finals.
----------------------------------------- players of the match:
3 - Luke Patten
2 - Hazem El Masri
1 - Michael Gordon