Panthers shade Narangba in thriller

There is a suggestion the standard of rugby league in the lower tiers of the Brisbane Second Division is far below the standards of that in the higher grades; however. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

What unfolded in the Northside Division 2 game between Narangba Rangers and Mitchelton at Narangba Sports Reserve was a highly entertaining and skilled game.

On a cold winter’s afternoon, the match attracted a small, but vocal crowd to see the Panthers take the spoils 22-20 in a game that went right down to the wire.

Narangba, superbly coached by Craig Shaw, are a pleasure to watch. Halves Harry Redfearn and Brodie Blake seemingly have the ball on a string under Shaw’s guidance.

Both players were outstanding in a losing side and were both orchestrators in the Rangers first try.

Redfearn’s quick thinking saw the pivot chip and chased over the Panthers fullback to regather the ball and find second rower Jack French in support to race away to score beside the posts.

Defence had reigned supreme up until then, when devastating Panthers centre Hafiti Fuli made his try look like a walk in the park as he strode through a gaping hole to plant the ball down for the visitors.

At 6-6, the sides could not be split. The Rangers exciting style of play is refreshing to watch and they chanced their arm on the first tackle from the scrumbase, to kick down field for rangy centre Robert Parsons. However, Panther’s fullback Ryan McDonald put his body on the line to save what appeared to be a certain try.

Mitchelton stalwart Robert Burgin, halfback Brent Gesch and centre Fuli were in fine form. The trio were keeping a stranglehold on the youthful and energetic Rangers who were just lacking that experience in patches.

With the clock ticking down to 30 seconds left in the first half, five-eighth Redfearn took a shot at field goal to try and break the deadlock, but the ball sailed to the right of the posts.

The Panthers were first to get on the scoresheet in the opening of the second stanza as halfback Gesch beautifully put through a grubber kick to find five-eighth Chris Stewart who made no mistake in scooping up the ball to score under the sticks.

However, in a contest that was being played from end to end, it would be Rangers playmaker Redfearn again to take charge and after some brilliant lead up work by towering centre Parsons, Redfearn sold the Panthers a ridiculous dummy to dive over from dummy half.

At 12-10 it was anybody’s guess at this stage who just would prevail in this arm wrestle of a game.

Again, hulking Panthers centre Fuli proved to be a handful outwide and it was the playmaker who would set up the next score as he swatted off two defenders to find elusive winger Itaru Matsuo who touchdown in the corner.

Narangba drew level at 16-16 with a magnificent pass from halfback Blake who found second rower French. The classy back rower showed some impressive footwork to beat two defenders to go in for his second try of the afternoon.

A superb touchline goal by halfback Blake had the crowd on the edge of their seats in what was a thrill a minute game to watch.

Narangba hooker Lachlan Bailey worked tirelessly to lift his side and his scoots from dummy half found open space throughout the game.

His quick thinking dash from the diminutive hooker found the unstoppable Rangers centre Parsons who latched onto a perfectly executed pass to go in score what was thought as the match winning try.

At 20-16 and with one minute on the clock it was anybody’s game until the Panthers heroic comeback came into the fold.

The Rangers knocked on inside their 10m line, and gave the Panthers have one last throw of the dice to clinch the game.

Halfback Gesch pounced over the line at short range in the last 60 seconds to seal a well-deserved win for the Panthers.

If the rest of the seasons games are half as dramatic as this, rugby league is in for a treat over the remainder of the year.

Final Score: Mitchelton Panthers 22 Narangba Rangers 20.