BATHURST Panthers have kept their season alive and increased doubts over Orange CYMS’ title defence after a brutal Group 10 premier league encounter on Sunday.
The hosts won the contest 18-10 amidst a handful of injuries including one to luckless hooker Luke Carpenter that may have ended his season.
The talented rake was the best player on the field for the first 25 minutes but suffered a severe knee dislocation when he was bent backwards in a tackle.
Nonetheless, his teammates rallied and produced a fine first half to hold CYMS scoreless, and held on whilst under the pump in the last half hour of the match as CYMS made a spirited comeback.
“This is what we’ve been working towards for a season-and-a-half now, and finally we’re starting to show some consistency with it,” Panthers coach John Fearnley said.
“Losing ‘Carpo’ was a big blow but everyone lifted after that. Matt Rose and Blake Dean in the halves took control of the match and when they’re able to do that, we play good football.”
The physicality of the match was evident early as the two forward packs sorted one another out but it was Panthers who were winning the ruck battle through Osea Sadrau, Brent Seager and Trent Rose.
Carpenter made two breaks off the back of that dominance, and with CYMS coughing up too much ball it was bound to cost them eventually.
That moment came after 20 minutes when a Blake Dean kick was messed up by the CYMS defence, allowing William ‘Bubba’ Kennedy to score in the left corner.
“Panthers were very good, they’re a red hot side when they are completing their sets and playing consistent football"
The game began to open up further as the two sides traded line breaks, and nearly reached a flashpoint when Seager, though not maliciously, sent Kyran Bubb’s head into the turf with an ugly lifting tackle.
Panthers soaked up pressure on the few occasions they were put under it, and crossed for their second when Matt Rose found his brother Trent with a good inside ball before he put Cody Robbins in under the posts.
Blake Lawson’s conversion made it 10-0 and the home team’s confidence was growing while CYMS were a man down without fullback Dan Stuart who suffered a calf injury.
Within a few moments of Carpenter’s injury it was clear they weren’t rattled by the incident as a towering bomb from Matt Rose was taken by a flying Blake Lawson who then put Blake Dean in to score their third.
Trailing by 16 at the break, CYMS visibly lifted on the resumption and, aided by a 10-2 penalty count, spent most of the half camped in Panthers’ territory.
A long ball from captain-coach Mick Sullivan led to Zac Rue scoring in the corner, and though Ben McAlpine’s kick was wide, they were in again not long after as Ben Gosper strolled through some tired defence.
Panthers got some respite on the 54-minute mark when Lawson knocked a penalty shot over but they began to look ragged as CYMS’ forwards started to get on top.
The big hits were still coming late in the game and the Orange side was asking plenty of questions of the hosts, but every promising move was either nullified by good defence or cruelled by poor ball control.
Some smart kicking from Matt Rose chewed up plenty of time in the final 10 minutes, and Panthers moved to within four points of CYMS who now drop to fifth on the competition table.
“Panthers were very good, they’re a red hot side when they are completing their sets and playing consistent football,” a gracious Sullivan said afterwards.
“We spoke at half-time about our go-forward and trying to meet them in the middle and play the game on our terms and I think we did that.
“When they have the ball for that long though as they did in the first half, they are a hard team to stop. It was a tough game, we knew it would be and I don’t think losing Dan Stuart hurt too much in the context of the game.
“His absence wasn’t the reason we fell behind.”
For Panthers Trent Rose was outstanding along with Lawson, Matt Rose and Blake and Brent Seager while Warick Colley, Ryan Previtt and Gosper were all strong performers.
BATHURST PANTHERS 18 (Blake Dean, Cody Robbins, William Kennedy tries; Blake Lawson 3 goals) def ORANGE CYMS 10 (Zac Rue, Ben Gosper tries; Ben McAlpine goal).