ROUND 1 - 2006

Date 11th Mar 2006
Venue ANZ Stadium
Coach Steve Folkes
Captain Andrew Ryan
Referee Sean Hampstead
Crowd 17510
Bulldogs V Panthers
22 24
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Scorers

Player Tries Goals F Goals Points
Hazem El Masri 1 3 0 10
Mark O'Meley 1 0 0 4
Luke Patten 1 0 0 4
Willie Tonga 1 0 0 4

Match Review

TEAM LINE-UP:

1. Luke Patten, 2. Hazem El Masri, 3. Reni Maitua, 4. Willie Tonga, 5. Matt Utai, 6. Daniel Holdsworth, 7. Brent Sherwin, 8. Chris Armit, 9. Corey Hughes, 10. Roy Asotasi, 11. Willie Mason, 12. Andrew Ryan, 13. Tony Grimaldi.
Interchange: 14. Adam Perry, 15. Mark O'Meley, 16. Nate Myles, 17. Andrew Emelio

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Source: AAP

Penrith halfback Craig Gower put an off-season of anguish behind him, steering the Panthers to an upset 24-22 NRL win over the Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium.

Gower and five-eighth Preston Campbell combined beautifully for the visitors, setting up all four of the Panthers tries to ambush the Bulldogs, most of whom seemed more intent on having a running battle with referee Sean Hampstead.

The win was particularity sweet for Gower following an off season in which he was stripped of the captaincy and fined $30,000 for a series of indiscretions on the Gold Coast.

The Bulldogs were their own worst enemies, dropping far too much ball inside their own half. Even when they had the ball on their opponent's line they were unable to do much with it.

The home side started well, with former Test centre Willie Tonga celebrated his return to the top grade after missing most of 2005 with a knee injury with a fourth-minute try, capitalising on a fine 30 metre bust from bulldozing prop Roy Asotasi.

The Panthers hit back immediately after a costly knock-on from Matt Utai five metres out from his own line, with winger Nick Youngquest celebrating his Panthers debut with a try from the scrum win.

The home side regained the ascendancy in the 18th minute when hooker Corey Hughes capitalised on a quick Holdsworth play the ball close to the Panthers line, finding an unmarked Luke Patten out wide.

The Bulldogs maintained the pressure, coming up with three repeat sets on the Panthers line only for Test prop Mark O'Meley, who entered the fray from the bench after 24 minutes, to drop the ball just short of the line.

Panthers fullback Rhys Wesser repaid the favour when he fumbled a Gower quick when over the Dogs tryline, but Campbell ensured the Panthers went to the break in the lead when he ducked inside two Bulldogs forwards before giving Gower a saloon passage to the line.

Lee Hookey extended their advantage after the break, with the home side denied a reply minutes later due to forward pass.

The half chance seemed to lift the Dogs from their slumber, and following a minor altercation between Mason and Panthers prop Joel Clinton, the home side and the crowd were well and truly fired up, which was only enhanced when Craig Stapleton was sin-binned for repeated infringements close to his own line.

The weight of possession finally told on the Panthers and El Masri crossed under the posts following a clever inside ball from Sherwin, but a Matthew Cross try following a short ball from Gower six minutes from time sealed the win.

Data provided by Clint Crofts