Stylish Panthers send Dogs packing
The Penrith Panthers eliminated the Bulldogs from the NRL Telstra Premiership finals race with an emphatic second-half showing in their 28-12 win at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Led by masterful skipper Matt Moylan and strong performances from their entire three-quarter line, Penrith were able to reverse an early 6-0 deficit to score 28 straight points.
The Panthers will now head to the nation's capital on Saturday night for a huge semi-final clash against the Canberra Raiders.
The Bulldogs' defeat sees the end of veteran winger Sam Perrett's career with his teammates Curtis Rona (Western Force) and Tim Browne (Panthers) also on their way out of the club.
The signs looked promising for coach Des Hasler's men in the first 15 minutes when Moses Mbye opened the scoring, but slowly and surely the Panthers felt the way into the game.
Winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak's try six minutes from half-time from a magic two-man cut-out ball from Nathan Cleary ignited the Panthers' attack at last.
Three minutes into the second half, Josh Mansour toyed with clearly injured Bulldogs fullback Brett Morris (knee) on an 80-metre kick return to help set up Waqa Blake's four-pointer.
Morris's game finally ended six minutes later when he left the field.
The Panthers were in again in the 53rd minute when brilliant lead-up work from Moylan allowed centre Tyrone Peachey to shrug off Perrett before sending Peter Wallace for a try under the uprights.
Controversy then reared its head when match officials Jared Maxwell and Chris James refused to send Josh Morris's likely try to the bunker midway through the second half. Morris was rolled over the try-line by Bryce Cartwright and appeared to get the ball down in-goal but had his appeal for a try turned down by the officials.
Hardly a minute later, Peachey scored a try of his own when he fooled three Bulldogs defenders with a dummy for the ages to score under the uprights.
Influential five-eighth Josh Reynolds' game was ended due to concussion in the 63rd minute in a game where three-quarters of the Bulldogs' spine failed to play the entire 80, with Michael Lichaa also undergoing a HIA test earlier in the day.
A Cleary penalty goal extended the Panthers' lead to 18 while Mansour's long-range effort to score in the final five minutes capped of their victory.
However Perrett had the last say in his final NRL game when he scored in the 78th minute and kicked a consolation goal to see out his career in positive fashion.
Penrith Panthers 28 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Waqa Blake, Peter Wallace, Tyrone Peachey, Josh Mansour tries; Nathan Cleary 4 goals) defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 12 (Moses Mbye, Sam Perrett tries; Moses Mbye, Sam Perrett goal) at Allianz Stadium. Half-time: Bulldogs 6-4. Crowd: 22,631.
Game on. Data off.
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