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Panthers pip Burleigh in hard-fought BHP Premiership clash

Defending champions West Brisbane Panthers defeated Burleigh Bears 18-16 in the opening round of the BHP Premiership at Pizzey Park.

A strong first half and some fantastic goal kicking from Lana Sheedy in windy conditions was enough for the Panthers to hold off a fast-finishing Burleigh.

Combatants in the last two SEQ Women’s Division 1 grand finals, Burleigh and West Brisbane were fired up to add another chapter to their rivalry in the opening round of the inaugural BHP Premiership.

While Burleigh managed to score four tries to three, the goal-kicking of Sheedy proved the difference and got the visitors home.

With a strong wind behind them and some ferocious work in the forwards, the Panthers dominated field position en route to a 14-point halftime lead.

Skipper and front-rower Asipau Mafi opened the scoring in the 15th minute, crashing over from close range after a period of sustained pressure.

Right-winger Lilly Green scored in the corner to extend the lead in the 22nd minute, with Sheedy converting from the sideline to take it out to 12-0.

The Bears finally got an opportunity in Panthers territory in the 26th minute and capitalised with a Shellie Long try in the corner.

After spending the entire first half under pressure, Long’s try should have been a momentum swinger for the Bears, but an error 10-metres off their line on the next set gifted the Panthers a chance to strike one more time before the break.

West Brisbane took full advantage off the scrum, with a nice play to the left sending Anna Inoke over untouched for an 18-4 lead at the break.

The Bears upped the intensity in the second half, taking advantage of the wind and storming back into the contest.

In their first possession they marched up the field, with returning star Karina Brown chiming into the backline late in the tackle count and setting up Long for her second.

Brown was involved again in the 38th minute, with the fullback going down the blindside from dummy half.

She found Queensland Maroons star Chelsea Lenarduzzi on the charge, who powered through several defenders to score Burleigh’s third try.

Burleigh’s momentum was halted for a brief period when Laken Paitai left the field with injury and Aleasha Brider was put on report.

The Panthers, in one of their only attacking chances of the second half, looked certain to score when Hayley Riccardi took off for a long run down the left wing, only to be rounded up and thrown into touch in a classic cover defence tackle from Brown.

That tackle kept Burleigh in the game, and they responded by going the length of the field in the space of three tackles, going from sideline to sideline and eventually finishing with a try to Eseta Aho in the left corner.

Lenarduzzi’s conversion attempt fell just short of the crossbar, allowing the Panthers to hold on for a valuable first round victory.

The Panthers had their own injury concern, with Charlotte Booth leaving the field late in the piece.

Burleigh return to Pizzey Park to take on North Queensland Gold Stars in Round 2.

The Panthers will head home to Kev McKell Oval to take on Tweed Seagulls.

FILE IMAGE: Lana Sheedy in action for the Panthers.