MOMENTUM: Emeil Tea training in readiness for this weekend's home game.
MOMENTUM: Emeil Tea training in readiness for this weekend's home game. Mai Hou Nielsen

Biloela Panthers deliver opening round blitz

BILOELA Panthers sent out an unmistakeable warning shot to the entire Rockhampton A grade rugby league competition as they signalled their premiership credentials with an emphatic first round win over Fitzroy/Gracemere Sharks 56-16 away from home at Saleyards park last Sunday afternoon.

In warm conditions the Panthers forwards brutalised the Fitzroy pack with some stinging defence led by forwards Emeil Tea, Tomas Williams and centre Junior Kirisome which set the tone for the duration of the match.

The Panthers opened their scoring for the 2018 season with a try after just four minutes to lock Caine Austin, who smashed his way through some flimsy Fitzroy defence to score next to the posts and allow the Panthers to go to a quick 6-0 lead.

The Panthers' early lead was quickly narrowed to a margin of two though as Fitzroy's inspired by their home crowd quickly hit back with a try of their own.

The Fitzroy try seemed to be just the reality check that the Panthers needed as they piled on the pressure all over the park in both attack and defence to take a 26-4 lead into the half-time break, with Jayden Alberts, Tomas Williams and Junior Kirisome all joining Austin on the trying scoring list, Kirisome with a double.

The second half saw the Panthers continue their power game through the middle of the park, running in another 28 points to only 12 with doubles to fullback Phill Futi and backrower Tea, while u/20 player Riley Stewart scored his first try of the season after a great cut-out ball from experienced Panthers playmaker Daniel Martin.

A happy but circumspect Panthers' A grade Coach Ryan Wilson was pleased to start the season with some good early form which translated into a strong win but cautioned his side about getting too carried away after just one game.

"Tomas Williams, Rhyse Giles, Emeil Tea, Karl Stevens, Shane Carter and Caine Austin really hunted as a pack of forwards today,” Wilson said.

"If they can step up and show that maturity week in, week out we have plenty of firepower in our backline for point scoring.

"Our Capras' affiliate players Jayden Alberts and Junior Kirisome bring a lot of pace, power and poise to the team, while we all know how creative DM (Daniel Martin) can be and I'm also excited about how well Phil Futi can go for us this year at fullback,” Wilson said.

While proud of their first up win Wilson also cautioned that the Panthers first home game for the year this Saturday night against Gladstone Brothers would be an even bigger test.

"It's good to be one from one and we can take some confidence and fitness from last week's match, but now it is up to us to start again because none of last week's points count now.

"The score is back to nil all and we know that Brothers will come out with a strong team ready to take us down if we don't execute our game plans”.

The Panthers' reserve grade side, which finished the game with just 12 players, scored a courageous 30-16 win over Fitzroy's and were ably led by new skipper Billy Johnstone who was supported by hard-working performances by Bailey Nairn and Brandon Gray.

Both the Panthers and Biloela Junior Rugby League clubs have home games this weekend in a real local rugby league extravaganza. Junior matches will start in the morning at the junior fields this Saturday followed by Under 20s at 4pm, Reserve Grade at 5.30pm followed by A Grade at 7pm at the senior fields.

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