Bathurst Panthers live to fight another day after keeping their Group 10 premier league season alive on Saturday night, ending the Oberon Tigers’ premiership dream with a 24-16 elimination final win at Carrington Park.
The crucial moment came when Oberon captain-coach Luke Branighan was sin-binned in the 56th minute with his side leading 16-10, the one-man advantage allowed Panthers back into the game.
They drew level by the hour mark and after Branighan returned the Tigers never found their rhythm again, Panthers going on to kick a penalty and score the match-winner three out from full-time.
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“We copped a huge amount of pressure at the start but we kept rallying, and that’s what we’ve built our game on this season,” Panthers captain-coach Doug Hewitt said.
“We just held the ball and got them frustrated. It was always going to be a mental game and I feel our boys came out on top in that area.
“A lot of the boys stood up today and I can’t credit them enough.”
The Tigers were the stronger side across the opening 10 minutes but somehow didn’t come away with any points, they had plenty of chances but errors let the men in black off the hook.
Oberon did break through at the 16-minute mark, through Ben McAlpine. Branighan converted and the lead should’ve been extended a few sets later, but Tui Oloapu’s offload floated into touch.
Panthers swiftly punished the Tigers and it was a scorching solo effort from Nick Loader that helped level the scores.
Loader made it a double when he dived over in the right corner and it gave Panthers the lead for the first time, although Oberon drew level through Oloapu not long after.
Seven minutes into the new half Dave Sellers wrestled momentum back in Oberon’s favour with his converted try next to the uprights. giving his side that 16-10 lead.
Just before the hour mark discipline began to wane inside the Tigers’ ranks after suffering through a barrage of Panthers attack and Branighan’s sin-bin handed Panthers control and they took advantage, through Jack Siejka’s try.
An Oberon high tackle allowed Willie Wright to slot a penalty and give Panthers an 18-16 lead, before Loader completed his hat-trick by diving on a Hewitt grubber three out from full-time.
“We had no respect for the ball and we had our chances to put them away,” Branighan said.
“It’s very disappointing but congrats to Panthers. We were all over them for that first 20 minutes but they fought back and that’s the sign of a good side.”
- BATHURST PANTHERS 24 (Nick Loader 3, Jack Siejka; Willie Wright 3 goals, penalty goal) def OBERON TIGERS 18 (Ben McAlpine, Tui Oloapu, Dave Sellers tries; Luke Branighan, Oloapu goals)