Friday, March 23, 2007

Aiton Sparks Up as Panthers hit 40
Panthers 40 - Bulldogs 10
Video Review: Click Here

The Panthers have turned it on to absolutely blow the Bulldogs away at CUA Stadium in Penrith tonight. In keeping with the NRL theme of recent years, picking the winners is almost impossible.

The Panthers who were deadset woeful last week and firmed as spoon holders in 2007, must have slept at training during the week - as they have come out a different side tonight.

For mine, Paul Aiton coming into the dummy half totally transformed the Panthers and was the spark that sent them into overdrive. With Priddis at dummy half early, the Panthers were nervous and never looked cohesive. Priddis' distribution at times was poor, forcing Gower to duck for cover - as slow service saw the Dogs eating him alive.

This all changed when live wire Aiton came into the fray. Suddenly massive metres were stolen from dummy half, Rooney was in sniffing around for work and Wesser was trailing the play ready for any offload or break. A special mention to the Panther on debut - Michael Jennings. Scoring a try early and looking very confident in his first time appearance.

Flash Gordon was solid for the Panthers his cover defence noteably impressive, as was his pin point goal kicking. His training work with Daryll Halligan is certainly paying dividends.

Peter Wallace at pivot was also taking some heat off Gower. His kicking and decision making was brilliant. He attacked the line at the right time, and distributed when it was called for.

It was a total snowball effect. As the Panthers heated up, all the old boys started to lift in confidence. Suddenly Pritchard was at his barn storming best and forwards Clinton and Waterhouse who have been quiet in recent times - were steaming forward and full of life.

It was exciting to see the old Panthers back, 2003 was relived tonight as they railroaded the Bulldogs.

In Doggie land, a tough night was had by most. Luke Patten must be complemented on his committment, he tried all night in defence and attack - without his role, it could have been 50 points against tonight.

Willie Mason and Shrek O'Meley were tough early and caused trouble for the Panthers defence, but they persisted with attacking the man - and were more concerned with big hits and personal contests that winning the game.

Holdsworth had an off-night, kicking out on the full at times, and choosing the wrong options with the ball. Admittedly the Panthers applied pressure to the Bulldogs pivot making his night a hard one. Tonights outcome will surely see Sherwin come back into the top grade after coming back in Premier League tonight.

The other glaring problem for the Bulldogs is their attack. They Dogs can string some passes together in patches and do look dangerous in parts - but looking at the back end of 2006, early trial games and now NRL 2007 - they simply haven't scored points. Look for Folkes to try SBW wider on the ruck next week to up the scoring ante.

In what was a physical contest, combined with massive tackling requirements for the Dogs - expect them to pull up sore and find it tough in the back end of next week.

Well done to the Panthers, their confidence will be sky high from their home town win and will no doubt help their coach settle in and lay a nice platform for the next few weeks. The Panthers will need every ounce next week as they face the 2006 Premiers to the Broncos in what should be a cracker.