THE Candelo-Bemboka Panthers are well and truly back in the hunt.
The Panthers have their sights on the reserve grade Group 16 rugby league premiership after decimating the Roosters on Saturday night.
The scoreline blew out in favour of the visitors 44-8 by the full-time siren.
The game went the way Panthers head coach Matt Inskip had planned, with the forward pack leading the charge.
“We spoke about that [the forwards] before the game, the forwards took us up,” Inskip said.
“We expected to get a couple of tries out on the wing, but the guys pushed us over right next to the posts.
“Which is handy on a windy night like it was on Saturday,” he said.
Inskip said the improved showing came from sticking to the team’s tactics.
“It’s something we focused on at training, not to deviate from the pattern,” he said.
Unfortunately for Bega, the Roosters were left dumbfounded as the Panthers forward pack shoved its way across the line multiple times.
Successive tries to John Dickson, Jamie Glenn and Jason Dixon had the Roosters on the back foot early.
Inskip said he was surprised to see the tries coming from the forwards.
“Three of our front rowers scored tries – that’s not what we expected.
“We expected to plug it up the middle and then push out wide,” he said.
The Roosters pulled back one try in the first half thanks to a strong run from Peter Curtis.
Inskip said he was impressed with the way his squad managed themselves.
“John Dickson led the forwards along with Robbie Townsend.
“And Michael Edmunds and Jamie Glenn led the backs around the way we wanted them to.
“It was a good effort across the park,” he said.
In the second half the Panthers continued to mount pressure on the Roosters’ line.
Jason Heffernan stormed across the line “untouched”, while David Dixon and Ben O’Reilly also left their mark on the scoreboard.
Inskip said he was also pleased with the kicking game from the Panthers, especially an in-form Edmunds,
“Edo can kick a goal, he’s got a good in-game kicking as well.
“When he has the boot in form it takes the pressure off the boys.”
Itching to take the park after a first-round bye, Inskip said it was a “huge confidence boost” to score a big win over Bega.
“There is a lot of emotion this weekend with our heritage round at Bemboka.
“It’s good to close out the game and have a bit of confidence leading in to this weekend.”
The Panthers will take on the Cooma Stallions at Bemboka on Saturday, where Inskip said the forwards will be “evenly matched”.
“Cooma is always traditionally a tough side, and they’ve got a bigger forward pack,” he said.
Inskip said the support for the club had been overwhelming.
“I saw a lot of people there I’ve never seen at football match before, they came out to support us.
“It’s good to be bringing people back to the game.
“It’s something we never really thought of,” he said.
Meanwhile, for the Roosters’ other two grades, the Saturday night clash was a different story altogether.
The Bega Chicks dominated the Pambula-Merimbula Hotdoggies, while the Roosters under 18s proved too strong for the Bullpups (See story page 31).