14 May, 2024

Panthers get up. Just!

In a game that provided a nail-biting finish, the Ahrens Gilgandra Panthers first-grade side broke through for their first competition win of the season when they just edged out the Gulgong Bull Terriers 22-20.

By Bryson Luff

Panthers get up. Just! - feature photo

Played on a muddy McGrane Oval in front of a big crowd, in the initial minutes of the game, the Panthers pressured the Gulgong line but weren’t being able to breach the Terriers’ defence and as often happens after a team has been hemmed in their own half, it was to be the visitors who were first on the scoreboard. Some good ball work from their winger, Brodie McGann, had him touching down out wide for a four-nil lead.

The Panthers replied not long after when their centre, Jarrod Fuller, was able to latch on to a high bouncing ball and plant it down to lock it up. With Ty Sutherland’s conversion from near the sideline being successful, the home side then led 6-4.

For a long period of the first half, the Terriers were territorially on top, and it was only some desperate Panther defence that kept them out. Finally, the Panthers were able to get themselves over halfway and into some sort of attacking position and in the 27th minute Fuller ran into a gap in the Gulgong defence and raced 15 metres to score his second four-pointer for the day. Sutherland again provided the extra points from wide out, in what was to become a crucial factor in the Panthers victory. Gilgandra would have been well pleased with their 12-4 lead with only five minutes remaining to half-time.

They would not have been pleased to go to the sheds 16-12 down. However, it was exactly the case after Gulgong’s five-eighth, Jai Cain barged over in the 36th minute for a converted try. Followed just three minutes later by their winger Zac Warwicker planting the ball down for a long-range try after backing up a great bust by Cain down the right flank from deep in Gilgandra territory. Both tries were converted by Brad James.

Gulgong’s lead on the scoreboard soon evaporated when Jay Towney crashed over for the Panthers in the fifth minute after the resumption of play. With the conversion again potted by Sutherland Gilgandra were back in front 18-16. Both teams had a player each cooling their heels in the bin.

It was to be the Panthers that were able to capitalize on the extra space when Wade Peachey, one of their best on the day, went over. Gilgandra looked a bit more comfortable leading 22-16 but there was still plenty of time on the clock.

With 15-minutes to go, Warwicker went over out wide to edge the Terriers back to within two-points and the scene was set for a nerve-wracking finish for supporters from both clubs. In those final minutes, Gulgong dominated the field position, and the Panthers were repeatedly called upon to repel raid after raid from the Terriers.

It was on the back of their resolute and committed defensive effort that the Gilgandra team was able to hang on for the two-point win, albeit giving their supporters many anxious moments as the clock painfully wound down!

Earlier in the day, the Pink Panthers went excruciatingly close to claiming their first win since 2022 when they lost 12-10 to Gulgong. The visitors scored out wide in the final minute of the game to claim the competition points.

Gilgandra head to Baradine this Saturday with the first graders playing for the Noonan-Campbell Cup on what will be an emotional day for the Magpies who will be honoring one of their favorite sons, the late Ken Campbell, prior to the first-grade game kick-off.

The Panthers first grade will be looking to build on their win last Saturday but face a tough task in unsettling the Magpies in their home nest. The black and whites will be desperate for their first win for the year and a tough and fast encounter is to be expected.

The Pink Panthers, who went so close to winning last Saturday, should be invigorated by that effort which will give them hope of matching it with the Maggiettes!


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