The Late Mail: Panthers v Knights
25 mins ago | Hamish Parker
History was created at Leichhardt Oval earlier today, as the Penrith Panthers claimed the inaugural Tarsha Gale Cup, defeating the Canterbury Bulldogs 26-18.
A strong 10-minute period from the Panthers in the lead up to half-time and beginning of the third quarter helped them establish a lead that the Bulldogs just couldn't run down.
The Panthers had to endure sudden-death football for the entire finals series after finishing in fifth, and they certainly peaked at the right time, defeating a number of quality sides on their way to premiership glory.
As she has been for much of the season, Ashlee Harrison was again a standout for the ladies in pink, earning player of the match honours.
After trading blows in the opening stages of the first quarter, a metre-eating run by Nikita Katoa got the Panthers on the front foot. This laid the platform for Harrison, who threw a superb out-ball to Cheryl Varga, who sidestepped her way to open the scoring.
Canterbury hit back from the set following on from the tap restart, with Alafou Fatu reaching out to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance after one quarter.
A long burst down the touchline from Taalefili Saufoi helped Canterbury to gain much needed field position, and they capitalised through Haneen Zreika, proving too elusive from close range.
Penrith managed to re-take the lead in the closing stages of the second quarter, as Katoa looked to be held, but used her strength and determination to power her way out of the tackle, crashing over near the posts.
Momentum continued to build for the Panthers after the break, as Canterbury made a mistake from the kick-off, and were punished as Jaime-Lee Davis gave the Panthers a 16-10 lead.
Katoa again found herself in the thick of things, making another burst in the centre of the field, before earning her side a penalty. From the next set, Harrison extended the lead out to ten with a try of her own.
Canterbury was struggling to get into the game in the third quarter, however a penalty gave them possession in Penrith's half, which they made the most of, as Saufoi got her side to within a converted try with a quarter to play.
After a struggle for ascendancy in the early stages of the final term, it was Harrison that put the game beyond doubt, regathering her own grubber kick with two minutes to play to seal the Panthers place in women's rugby league history.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 18 Penrith Panthers 26
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Date: Saturday 6 May 2017 at 12:45pm
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (18)
Tries: Taalefili Saufoi, Haneen Zreika, Alafou Fatu, Grace Li
Goals: Haneen Zreika 1
Penrith Panthers (26)
Tries: Jaime-Lee Davies, Ashlee Harrison 2, Cheryl Varga, Nikita Katoa
Goals: Cheryl Varga 2, Ashlee Harrison 1