Bulldogs sour Panthers' party at Pepper Stadium
THE Bulldogs have snatched a victory from Penrith in the final minute, and in doing so, robbed the hosts of a fairytale result on an historic occasion at Pepper Stadium.
Unheralded debutant Kerrod Holland kicked the winning goal after the fulltime siren for the blue and whites to win 18-16 on the night of the Panthers' 50th anniversary.
Trailing 16-12, the Bulldogs' last play saw them come up with six passes before a Josh Morris inside ball saw halfback Moses Mbye crash over.
Holland then nailed the all-important conversion in his first NRL match.
Earlier, forgotten New South Wales five-eighth Jamie Soward forced four line dropouts in the first half alone, allowing the Panthers to take a 14-6 lead into the break.
A beautifully-weighted grubber from the little left-foot kicker saw former Manly star and centre Peta Hiku race through and score in the fourth minute.
The Bulldogs barely saw the ball inside the first 10 minutes after Reagan Campbell-Gillard raced off the line and jolted the ball free from Aiden Tolman's grasp in Canterbury's first set of six.
The early momentum stayed with the hosts when prop Sam McKendry steamed over from close range in the 11th minute.
The Bulldogs slowly got back into the game though, through a try to fullback Will Hopoate in the 24th minute, after brilliant playmaker Mbye darted into a hole courtesy of a Sam Kasiano offload.
Campbell-Gillard, 22, starred for the Panthers in the first half, standing up to an all-star giant forward pack, running for 110m.
His massive shot on Tolman dazed the NSW Country representative, failing a concussion test later in the first stanza, and he was not allowed to return in a massive blow to the blue and whites.
The game became a real arm-wrestle in the second half, and Mbye's first try, from a beautiful inside ball by Hopoate, set up a grandstand final 20 minutes.
The Bulldogs were hoping five-eighth Josh Reynolds - who courageously stayed on the field after a heavy hit to his ribs by Panthers centre Dean Whare - would be okay to play against the Eels at ANZ Stadium next Friday night.
Whare was assisted from the field after re-injuring his calf, and he might not play against the Broncos at Pepper Stadium next Saturday night.
BULLDOGS 18 (M Mbye 2, W Hopoate tries; K Holland 2, M Mbye goals) PANTHERS 16 (P Hiku, S McKendry tries; J Soward 4 goals). Crowd: 11,125 at Pepper Stadium.