Almanac Rugby League – It’s Hot at Pepper Stadium

NRL 2015 Premiership.


Penrith Panthers v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Sunday 8th March, 2015
Pepper Stadium, Penrith.


Genuinely torn as to what to do today. Do I commute the hour and a half to the SCG to watch Australia take on Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup, or do I walk the 20 minutes across the Nepean River to watch the Penrith Panthers commence their 2015 campaign against the team that beat them in last year’s Preliminary Final? Given I travelled across the ditch to see the Australian cricket team lose a week before, a day at the footy wins today.

That said, it would be about 10 degrees cooler at the SCG. It’s hot here.

The Dogs kick off, running towards the Howell Oval end of the ground. Panthers complete their first set of possession, as do the Dogs. First penalty of the match goes to the Panthers.

Great set from the Panthers and Wallace kicks to the comer and the Dogs knock it on in the contest for the ball. More possession for the Black Cats. The passes aren’t sticking and the attack looks disjointed – to be expected in week one.

Wallace kicks to the left and the Dogs drop it over the sideline. Another attacking chance for Penrith, and from the scrum base they run it to the right, a desperate tackle from the Dogs saves the try in the corner and the Panthers lose it after the first tackle.

Trent Hodkinson kicks a 40/20, advancing the Dogs a cheap 40 metres up the field. The Dogs run left but the ball is intercepted over the line by Penrith, but are held in goal, so it’s a line drop out.

Dogs run left again but their English captain James Graham spills it and the pressure is off the Panthers.

Panthers break lose down the left and George Jennings steps inside the cover defence and Bulldogs winger Sam Perrett has jumped up to smack him in the head and while he’s down Josh Jackson flops onto the prone winger. Penalty to Penrith and Jackson reported to the match review committee.

Panthers now run it right and in the 12th minute Dallin Watene Zelezniak beats two cover defenders to plant the ball over the try line in the corner. The conversion is good from Jamie Soward and the Panthers take the early lead six- nil.

22 minutes in and the natives have let the heat get to them. Watene Zelezniak running the ball back from a kick. He’s smothered by three bulldogs’ players and after playing the ball they fall to the ground and one of the Bulldogs has hit him with an elbow. James Segeyaro runs in to defend his winger and a melee stops the play. Penalty goes to the Dogs because, well, could it be because the former CEO of the Dogs, Todd Greenberg, is now the NRL’s football operations manager? It’s the only reason I can think of.

28th minute and after a number of rucks up the centre to compress the Bulldog’s defence on their own line, Soward throws a long cut out pass to a flying George Jennings and he scores a try on his NRL debut. Soward kicks from the left touch line and it’s also good. Panthers jump out to a 12-0 lead.

The Panthers have had a glut of possession in the last 5 minutes before half time. A couple of penalties, one for tripping, a play to be expected from the Titans this week, by Josh Reynolds and now a dangerous suplex throw on Peter Wallace in front of the posts and Jamie Soward takes the two points within a minute of half time. The siren heralds a much needed break from this heat at 14 nil.

Australia are 4-235 at the SCG, and Watto’s playing. What is going on there?

Matt Moylan kicks off the second half. The Dogs complete their first set and the Panthers run it back through Moylan, then Idris gains cheap metres. James Segeyaro takes advantage of the retreating defensive line and he runs from a Bryce Cartwright offload 30 metres out, beats Brett Morris’ cover defence and Soward converts from the far touch line again.

Panthers 20 nil in 44 minutes.

50th minute and Segeyaro splits them up the middle again. Two rucks later and Soward puts up a cross field kick to DWZ. There’s no contest to the ball but there’s three Dogs defenders around him, but somehow he steps past two and carries the fullback over the line and the Panthers are out to a 24 point lead. Soward misses the kick.

Now is the time for referee Ben Cummins to influence the game. Segeyaro has the ball stripped in a three man tackle, but Cummins says it was one on one. Then a second penalty for not standing square at marker. Dogs are suddenly on attack for the first time since the early stages of the first half.

But the Panthers defence holds firm to a roar of applause from the crowd.

Josh Reynolds tried to pull his team into the game with a bold chip and chase and strong tackle on Matt Moylan.

20 minutes to go and Brett Morris makes a bust, but the Panthers scrambling defence shuts them down again.

Reynolds puts a step on Tyrone Peachy who puts out the arm and collects him over the head and the Dogs are on their best roll of possession. They try to go in at the left corner but are held, then a Dogs second rower tries to barge over from dummy half, only to be bundled into touch.

Panthers run it up 70 metres and on the last Soward puts up another bomb, and finally Josh Morris is penalized for taking out Watene Zelezniak chasing the kick. A sweeping move to the left breaks down as the Panthers try to make it look spectacular.

Segeyaro, the smallest forward on the field hits the English captain James Graham with a great one on one hit, but referee Cummins says it was a shoulder charge. Apparently the Papua New Guinean has his shoulder in the middle of his chest.

From the resulting set of six the Dogs are finally on the board. Let’s not worry about the final forward pass. Trent Hodgkinson converts the goal and with nine minutes to go the score is 24-6.

As a long time Panthers supporter, I can’t help but panic and from the kickoff the Dogs captain is given another penalty, this time for being held down on the first tackle. These cheap metres are bringing them back into the game. They break again and Josh Morris is tackled just five metres from the Panthers line and guess what, another penalty to the Dogs.

They run it left and the winger, Curtis Rona scores. Hodkinson converts again and it’s suddenly 24-12 with seven minutes to play.

Dogs are on a roll and Brett Morris pops up a pass to former Penrith player Frank Pritchard, but it’s ruled forward. They’ve been doing it all day, ref.

Panthers are on attack, they run it left and Lewis Brown drops it in a tackle, the Dogs run it back 80 metres to score under the posts. Hodkinson kicks the goal and suddenly there’s only a converted try in it with three minutes to go.

From the restart they break down the left and Josh Morris is downed 10 metres inside the Panthers half. But the clock is stopped as he is injured.

On the last they kick to the left corner but Penrith have knocked it on in the contest. One minute and 45 seconds left and the Dogs have a scrum only ten metres out.

Dogs do their best at razzle dazzle, the pass from dummy half on the last goes loose, they put the kick in to the right corner but they all miss it. The Panthers have finally got some possession. Less than a minute to go.

It went out on the last, no scrum, it’s a tap restart.

18,814 fans don’t want this game to end, but right now there is no sweeter sound than the loudest siren in the league.


Penrith Panthers  24
Canterbury Bulldogs 18

Penrith: Dallin Watene Zelezniak 2, George Jennings and James Segeyaro.

Canterbury: Tim Browne, Curtis Rona and Brett Morris.

Penrith: Jamie Soward 4 from 5 attempts.

Canterbury: Trent Hodkinson 3/3 attempts.



If you’ve seen some of the action from round one of the 2015 Premiership, we’d love to read your words. You can check out more of our League writings – including Arabella Douglas’ magnificent ode to South Sydney after their 2014 Premiership win HERE.


About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.

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