A nine-game losing streak was ended at Ringrose Park this afternoon (Sunday 3 July), with the Wentworthville Magpies running out 28-24 winners over the red-hot Penrith Panthers.
The mid-season movements of two experienced halves would affect both sides' playing rosters; while the Panthers lost Jamie Soward to an English Super League deal, the Magpies picked up Jeff Robson from the in-form Warriors - and the halfback showed his class to seal the win. Penrith simply shifted captain Will Smith to the halves alongside Zach Dockar-Clay, while Wentworthville welcomed Robson and pushed skipper Cameron King into the second row.
On a perfect Sunday afternoon at Ringrose Park, it would be the Panthers to score first, with Smith making an immediate impact in the halves. A perfectly-placed bomb found notorious high-flyer Josh Hall, who batted it back to a waiting Viliam Kikau for a four-pointer. Hall slotted the conversion and it was 6-0 in favour of the visitors after just a minute of play.
The Panthers were almost successful in taking more points from Hall's wing, but it would be the Magpies to hit back through a soft try to Dylan Izzard. The five-eighth slotted through a poor Penrith defence with a simple show-and-go before adding the extras from in front of the posts.
Robson took little time to settle back into life at Wentworthville and soon earned a repeat set after Hall fumbled a bomb near his own line. It was second-rower Matt Woods to add points soon after, reaping the rewards for a hard run at the same area of the Penrith defence that had already been exploited. Izzard converted for a 12-6 lead. Soon it was the Panthers' turn again as a set piece found a charging Corey Harawira-Naera, before Hall once again converted to level the scores.
A few errors soon had the Magpies back on the attack and a Robson grubber would earn his side another repeat set. The Panthers defence was bruising, however, and while they weren't able to capitalise in that instance, Robson would eventually find the line in the 35th minute. Despite a missed field goal on the stroke of half-time, the returning Magpie ensured his side went into the sheds with an 18-12 advantage.
When Sione Katoa was put on report early in the second half for a shoulder charge, it awarded Wentworthville an attacking opportunity and the home side made no mistake; Nick Kassis broke away from Sitaleki Akauola to bring up a two-try lead.
Bureta Faraimo raced away to score another for the Magpies and it was a long way back for the Panthers; despite a missed Izzard conversion they led 28-12 with 21 minutes remaining.
Eventually the visitors got their first points of the second stanza as Hall showed impressive pace to get around Scott Schulte following a scrum. The rangy winger then converted from the sideline to get the Panthers back within 10 points with 16 minutes left.
Before the Magpies could see the football again, the Panthers hit back instantly through Kikau, who took a second via another very strong line. Hall converted and it was 28-24 in favour of Wentworthville.
Moses Leota broke the line soon after and had a perfect opportunity to even things up, but took the wrong option in throwing a wayward pass that went to ground. The game was beginning to open up and Wentworthville's Honeti Tuha soon found himself in space, but once again was unable to capitalise.
In the dying stages of the game, the Panthers had all the momentum and a slick play to Hall looked certain to earn him a second. The Penrith attack was desperate, but Wentworthville's scrambling defence stuck solid and held on for a spirited Magpies victory. The home side took the Round 17 encounter 28 points to 24.
Wentworthville 28 (D Izzard, M Woods, J Robson, N Kassis, B Faraimo tries; D Izzard 4 goals)
Penrith 24 (V Kikau 2, J Hall, C Hawira-Naera tries; J Hall 4 goals)