Panthers roar to claim maiden SEQW premiership

The West Brisbane Panthers went on a bear hunt against the Burleigh Bears and were not scared in upsetting the four-time premiers, winning 20-8 to claim this year’s SEQ Women's Division 1 premiership.

Both teams met to battle for the silverware last season with Burleigh dominating the 14-0 victory at Cbus Super Stadium, but the Panthers were back again to challenge the competition juggernauts.

A mere two for and against points separated the two combatants in Queensland’s premier women’s competition, with both winning a game each in the two head-to-head contests this season.

Both teams had star-studded line-ups with seven NRLW representatives featuring in the big dance; five of whom pulled on a Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons jersey earlier this year.

Defence was the highlight in the opening stages with some mouth-watering match ups developing between centres Bridget Smith and Amber Pilley and lock forwards Brianna Clark and Chelsea Lenarduzzi.

Pilley was first to score for Burleigh in the ninth minute following a Panthers error 20 metres from their own goal line.

The Queensland centre, on the end of a shift from right to left and beating her opposite centre Bridget Smith, used her strength to reach out and draw first blood.

The defending premiers had plenty of opportunities down the Panthers end of the park in the middle stages of the first half but costly errors rued their chances of adding extra points.

With the Pink Panthers on the attack in the 25th minute, a well-executed back-line saw the ball shift from left to right, opening up the defensive line for Kazzia Lammon to sprint away.

Ten metres from the line and the Burleigh defence finally catching the elusive fullback, a desperate pass from Lammon saw the loose ball picked up by Lilly Green who then found Caitlyn Taleni unmarked on her right to cross for the minor premiers’ first points.

With the scores locked at 4-4, emotions flared with plenty of passion shown in the last ten minutes of the first half.

Just prior to halftime, the Bears suffered a huge loss with Lenarduzzi carried from the field with a suspected limb injury – the Queensland prop not returning in the second 35.

Wests came out of the blocks firing after the break, testing Burleigh’s defensive line a number of times in the opening five minutes of the second half.

When the Bears did get a relieving set to work out of their red zone, a crucial dissent penalty against them turned over possession and eventually allowed Wests to take the lead.

As Bears players shot out of the line in a desperate attempt to shut down points, the Panthers worked the ball from right to left through the hands, taking advantage of the overlap to put Gemma Schnaubelt over the chalk for her first try in the 41st minute.

With the challengers having all the ascendency, the Panthers were in again 14 minutes later, Schnaubelt bagging her second in the same fashion as her first, and with Lana Sheedy adding the extras from the sideline, they now held at 14-4 lead.

Despite Burleigh not 100 per cent due to injuries sustained in the first half – Talisha Harden pushing through despite troubles with her left knee and Lenarduzzi leaving the field in the first half – they were able to lean on their previous experience and fought through to remain in the contest.

The determination led to points with 11 minutes remaining; Eseta Aho on the receiving end of a ball-moving set play through the hands to score in the south-western corner.

With the margin only a converted try, a stop-start final ten minutes saw the West Brisbane Panthers attempt to grind out the game against to lift the silverware.

With 20 seconds on the clock, Harden rolled the dice in a now-or-never play for Burleigh by kicking high, only for it to come off the side of the boot and into pink hands.

From there, Schnaubelt - the player of the match - showed a clean set of heels to sprint 80 metres away for her hat-trick try and secure the club’s maiden premiership, upsetting the four-time premiers in a dominant display to culminate the 2019 SEQW season.

Wests Brisbane Panthers 20 (Gemma Schnaubelt 3, Caitlyn Taleni tries; Lana Sheedy 2 goals) defeated Burleigh Bears 8 (Amber Pilley, Eseta Aho tries) at Emerson Park, Grange.