WITH victory in Sunday’s Group 10 under 18s derby Panthers have taken the outright lead in what has been a Bathurst-dominated competition.
Panthers survived a spirited Saints fight back in the second half to take a 30-20 win in the top-of-the-table clash at Carrington Park.
Little separated the clubs in a match that could be a grand final preview.
The hosts got out to an 18-0 lead with just over 20 minutes remaining but were never safe from a Pat’s team seeking revenge for their derby loss earlier in the season.
Saints brought the score back to 24-20 but a last minute try to Panthers’ Nick Barlow secured the result.
Panthers coach John Fearnley said his team were ready for the occasion from the opening minute.
“There’s not much at all between the two sides. Our boys really stood up for this one and it was a big improvement from our game against Mudgee the week before,” he said.
“They had better discipline out there today. We got off to a great start and moved the ball really well.”
Panthers’ Finlay Grabham scored a brace while Ash Cosgrove and Bailey Akroyd shared all four of the Saints’ tries evenly between themselves.
Fearnley said the Saints made his boys fight hard in the second half.
“Pat’s are a strong team and when we made a couple of mistakes they were able to capitalise on them,” he said.
“To the credit of our guys they were able to stand up to the pressure.
“I thought Nick Barlow and Brad [Fearnley] had great games and Elijah Sharwood played very well. Johnny Bird at fullback also made a great account of himself.”
The win takes Panthers to 21 points, two clear of Pat’s. Saints still have a three point buffer over the chasing Orange CYMS.
The match was a much closer affair than the 48-16 win Panthers achieved in the first derby.