THE offence must be patched up quickly.
That’s priority number one for the Bathurst Panthers after finding an unconvincing 28-10 win over the Blayney Bears in the final regular season round of Group 10 premier league on Sunday.
Both clubs blew several opportunities close to the line through errors and made poor fifth tackle choices in a scrappy Carrington Park contest, but Panthers had several patches of brilliance that earned them the win.
Those concerns are not much of a problem for wooden spoon winners Blayney, who have the off-season to address them, but they are troubling for the finals bound Panthers.
Panthers will have a much tougher time when they play host to the Oberon Tigers next weekend and player-coach Doug Hewitt (who was rested for Sunday’s game) said a lot needs to lift.
“There’s a lot to work on out of that. It’s nowhere near where we need to be before finals,” he said.
“It was just a scrappy game from both sides and that just makes things harder. There’s no flow and no momentum.
“There’s a couple of little things to look at like the loose carries and stupid passes when we don’t need to make them. But we’ve got that out of the road and we can look forward to finals.”
A crunching tackle helped set up the opening try for Panthers just three minutes into the match.
Jack Siejka’s hit on a Bears opponent – who had just caught a Panthers kick – sent the ball loose, allowing Andrew Mendes to score and Willie Wright to add the extras.
Blayney weren’t discouraged by the early points against them and enjoyed some time down the Panthers’ end of the ground.
Just when Panthers were starting to dig themselves out of trouble the Bears scored when Ricky Scott was on the end of a chip kick.
His run to the right corner brought it back to 6-4.
A forward pass prevented the Panthers from adding to their lead in the 22nd minute but on their next set the hosts made no mistakes.
Nick Loader’s short ball from dummy half to Jack Siejka put the second rower over for an easy four points, and Wright added another two with his kick.
Panthers showed signs of complacency in attack and it led to them squandering two more try scoring chance before the break, one off another forward pass and the other from a shepherd.
The upset alert started to ring just a couple of minutes into the new half when Bears halfback Mitch Evers intercepted the ball and ran over 80 metres to score.
The converted try failed to inspire the Bears who were caught overlapped in defence several sets later. It gifted Blake Seager an easy try.
Panthers put a dagger into the Bears’ upset hopes when Kade Barrow’s converted try made it 22-10 with less than half an hour to play.
On the hour mark Elijah Sharwood dived over from dummy half to pick up more easy points for the Panthers.
The final 20 minutes was frustrating for the Panthers who began to rush through their sets and make a run of mistakes.
Panthers had a late opportunity to put on more points when a Loader break helped put Jed Betts into space but the ball was lost less than 10 metres out from the Bears’ try line.
It was a far from flattering showing from the Panthers who have struggled to find rhythm in their last two matches, coming against Lithgow Workies and Bears – the bottom two premier league sides.
Panthers have managed to qualify all four grades for finals football and all four teams won on Sunday.