The Panthers came out on top in the battle of the big cats as they both warmed up for the start of the 1895 cup next weekend.
In the opening thirteen minutes both sides were testing out each other’s defences with some good attack on show, but the final pass was going to ground in the cold wet conditions.
Panthers had the first chance when Joe Keyes put a kick to the left corner with Matty Gee chasing but he couldn’t control the ball near the line, but the Cougars were caught offside. From this the platform was set for Panthers to open the scoring when another Keyes kick bounced off the posts sending Cougars fullback to lose his footing and James Woodburn-Hallchased the rolling ball to score under the posts with Louis Jouffret converting.
Zac McComb almost added another just after the restart but the final pass in a good movement saw the final pass from Ben Tibbs sail forward. The first Cougars main attack came on twenty-four minutes when Jack Miller sent a kick towards the left, but the ball just ran dead before Junior Sa’u could get to it.
More good pressure from the Cougars on the half hour when Miller forced a goal line drop out but from the pressure from the kick a final short-range pass to Lewis Hatton went to ground just in front of the posts.
From this Panthers increased their lead when Tibbs made a fifty-metre run down the right to hand on to Woodburn-Hall who scored his second of the half, but Jouffret could not judge the wind to convert.
Panthers should really have scored in the dying seconds of the half when Tom Inman chose to pass with what looked like an open run to the line and the ball was lost from the pass.
Cougars started the second half well with the wind at their backs and forced a goal line drop out, but they wasted their attack from this when a weak kick to the left was easily taken by Tibbs. Panthers then made good ground up the field and the pressure told on the Cougars defence when Jouffret found a gap to race in on the left and he also judged the strong breeze to add the conversion from near the touchline.
Panthers gifted the ball back to Cougars from the restart when Ben Crooks knocked on and they made the most of this when Jordan Schofield crashed over from short range near the posts with Miller converting.
The game got a bit scrappy midway through the half with both teams having difficulty with ball handling in the conditions, but the next chance fell to the Cougars on sixty-six minutes, but Mark Ioane could not hold onto the ball as he dived for the line.
They then forced another goal line drop out and there was more pressure on the visitors line but the defence held strong. Panthers had more of the ball in the final ten minutes but again some good defence from the Cougars kept them at bay.
Match Report by Ian Rigg