23 May, 2021
Pinkies and Panthers play under lights
Night football returned to McGrane Oval on Saturday, when then the Gilgandra Panthers took on Coonabarabran Unicorns in round five of the Christie and Hood Castlereagh League.
The league tag teams were the first onto the paddock. The Pinkies got the scoreboard rolling early when Emily Fardell touched down out wide.
But, Coona’s Lady Unicorns hit back with two unconverted tries to take a 8-4 lead to the half-time break.
The Lady Unicorns went on with the job in the second half, getting out to an 18-4 lead before Crystal Williams posted a late try for the Pinkies to make it 18-8.
Despite a late rally from the Pinkies, the Lady Unicorns were able to hold on until the final bell and maintain their position near the top of the table.
The lights were shining brightly over McGrane when the Panthers hit the field and it didn’t take long to get points on the board when Mitch Bamblett finished off a great backline movement to touch down at the 10 minute mark.
Brandon Hammond converted and two minutes later the Panthers looked to have scored again but were called back because of an obstruction. That didn’t stop the Panther momentum and soon after, second rower, Hayden Smith crashed through the Coona defence to score out wide.
George Alchin followed suit to give the home side a 14-0 lead.
Just on the stroke of half-time the Panthers were awarded a penalty close to the sticks and Luke Ritchie made no mistake to give the Panthers a healthy 16-0 lead at the break.
The Panthers got off to a flying start in the second half when the ball was spun wide to Kyzah Louie. Louie sped down the eastern touchline leaving several defenders in his wake to score in the corner to make it 20-0.
But the Unicorns rallied and with two quick converted tries seemed to be back in the contest at 20-12. The wrecking ball, Hayden Smith put the Panthers back on track soon after another charge at the Coona defence to score out wide.
Ritchie converted and a couple of minutes later, Ash Hazelton gathered in a bouncing ball off a Luke Ritchie grubber to score between the posts. Ritchie made no mistake and the Panthers led 32-12.
Hayden Smith then capped off a man of the match performance when he scored again to make it 36-12 as the clock ticked down.
The Unicorns refused to buckle however and they were rewarded with a converted try. 36-18. George Alchin finished off a great game when he scored the last try and with Ritchie’s conversion play was halted with the Panthers winning 42-18.
The Panthers had a number of players who stood out on the night including Hayden Smith and George Alchin, as well as Ray Saunders who was excellent in defence.
James Carter was also having a blinder for the Panthers until he left the field with a hand injury.
Curtis Carr was also excellent, playing at five/eighth in a re-shuffled Panther backline.
Next Saturday both the Panthers and the Pinkies face their stiffest task of the season so far when they hit the road to Dunedoo to take on the Swannies at Robertson Oval.
Both Swans teams are undefeated. The Panthers and the Pinkies will need to be at their very best if they are to trouble the Swans at home. Hopefully the Panther faithful can again make the trip and get behind their favourite team in 2021.