In a see-sawing affair which saw the lead change hands several times, Penrith have overcome some strange refereeing decisions and a determined Canterbury outfit to cement their place in the premiership race and gain plenty of credibility by showing the rest of the teams that they can match it with one of the heavyweights of the competition.
Luke Lewis had a great game, scoring two sensational tries and doing plenty of work. Luke Priddis also played outstanding footy to propell the Panthers to victory. Penrith fans will also be pleased with the form of Ryan Girdler, who really stepped up when Rhys Wesser was controversially sin-binned. Gird's also kicked two very important goals from difficult positions.
For the Bulldogs, most of the team played very well, but just couldn't get there. A facial cut to Braith Anasta limited his time on the field and effectiveness. Nigel Vagana played well, bagging a double and up front Price, O'Meley and Mason were strong, particularly Price who was backing up after State duties and a pretty ordinary hit by Ben Kennedy.
Sunday 29 June 2003 3:00 PM Penrith Football Stadium Referee: Bill Harrigan Scorers: PANTHERS Tries: Lewis 2, Wesser, Elford, Rooney, Goals: Girdler 4/5 BULLDOGS Tries: Vagana 2, Hughes, Mason Goals: El Masri 5/5
Leagueunlimited.com Player of the Year Award points.
3 - L Lewis (Panthers) 2 - L Priddis (Panthers) 1 - N Vagana (Bulldogs)
By the clock:
Massive crowd here at Penrith Stadium, threatening to break the ground record and delays the start of the match by a few minutes.
5 min: Rhys Wesser on report for a high tackle on Ben Harris. Both sides looking to open up the game with enterprising play.
13 min: Gaulavao has sustained an injury to his right thigh. This game is being played at a cracking pace with both teams putting it all on the line.
18 min: TRY - Penrith. Wesser brings up his 16th try for the year after going into dummy half and making a break before standing up Patten with shear pace. Penrith lead 4-0.
19 min: Ryan Girdler adds the extras to push the lead out to 6-0.
21 min: Craig Gower comes up with a terrific 40-20 kick to keep the Panthers on the attack 10 metres out from the Canterbury line.
30 min: Penrith clean up a certain try to Canterbury after Hazm El Masri drops the ball with the line open.
32 min: TRY - Penrith. Shane Elford finishes off some fantastic work with an 80 metre try standing up Matt Utai. Gower and Campbell involved heavily. Penrith on top and leading 10-0.
33 min: Girdler converts from beside the posts. Penrith lead 12-0.
33 min: Penrith get a penalty from the kick-off but fail to find touch through Gower. Canterbury on the attack.
34 min: TRY - Canterbury. Braith Anasta goes for a run and opens up a gap, draws Wesser and offloads to Corey Hughes who scores under the posts. Penrith 12 Canterbury 4.
35 min: El Masri converts a simple attempt and bring the scores back to 12-6 in favour of the Panthers. The home side pay the ultimate penalty for not finding touch.
37 min: TRY - Canterbury. Nigel Vagana goes over for his 13th try of the season. Great lead-up work by Dennis Scott getting around Girdler before the ball went wide to Vagana. Penrith 12 Canterbury 10.
38 min: El Masri kicks another simple conversion to draw the scores level at 12-all. Anasta off the field with a cut over the eye.
A great game of footy unravelling here, with both teams playing hard and very entertaining. Penrith looked the goods early, putting on two great tries to Wesser and Elford. However, after failing to find touch, Penrith appeared to lose their way and let Canterbury back into the game with two quick tries to Hughes and Vagana. With a big breeze to run into in the second half, the Panthers will be a bit disappointed that they're not leading by 12 points.
Penrith to kick-off.
42 min: Penalty to Canterbury for a strip in the play the ball region. El Masri lines up a difficult penalty goal and doesn't make a mistake. The Bulldogs now lead 14-12.
44 min: Wesser sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes after laying in the play the ball area. A bit rough as it was 40 metres out from the line.
45 min: TRY - Canterbury. Willie Mason strolls over under some contentious circumstances with a hint of a sheppard. Doggies up by 18-12 with a kick to come.
46 min: El Masri kicks his fourth goal for the day and extends the lead to 20-12.
52 min: TRY - Penrith. Panthers get a roll on and get the ball out wide to the big winger Luke Rooney. Girdler playing well also. Canterbury lead 20-16.
53 min: Girdler misses a difficult conversion. Score remain 20-16 in favour of the Doggies.
54 min: Wesser back on the field for the Panthers.
61 min: Both teams missing a few opportunities courtesy of a few errors.
63 min: TRY - Penrith. Luke Lewis scores a game-levelling try after Luke Priddis scampers out of dummy-half and catches Utai out of position before setting up the flashy winger. Scores 20-all
65 min: Girdler kicks a beauty to take the lead at 22-20. Girdler has stepped up.
66 min: New ground record of 22,147 people here at Penrith Stadium.
66 min: TRY - Canterbury. Vagana busts through several tackles from close range to snatch back the lead for the Doggies. Canterbury 24 Penrith 22.
67 min: El Masri makes no mistake and the score's are 26-22 in favour of the Dogs.
70 min: TRY - Penrith. Lewis scores an amazing try, plucking the ball out of the air over Utai off a Girdler kick. Scores level at 26 a piece.
71 min: Girdler having a day of it with the boot, belts another great one over. Panthers infront 28-26.
79 min: Utai knocks on in an attacking position sealing the game for the Panthers.
The Panthers have won an absorbing contest by 28-26 over Canterbury infront of a new home ground record of 22,147.