Mounties have been beaten by Penrith in round 22 of the VB NSW Cup by 30-22 in a stop start game at Pepper Stadium on Saturday.
In what could have been the game of the season Mounties got off to a great start when Brenko Lee intercepted a Penrith pass in the 2nd minute and sprinted 80m to open the scoring and with a great kick from the sideline Mounties led 6-0.
Just two minutes later Mounties were in again when Jeff Lynch brushed off a tackler and charged for the line before he found Sam Duggan on the inside who dived over and after he converted his own try Mounties led 12-0.
In the 10th minute Mounties forwards asserted their dominance when Nicholls and O'Donnell provided some great thrust through the middle to create space on the right edge and Jeremy Hawkins was good enough to find the line after shrugging off two tacklers for Mounties to lead 16-0 after the conversion went wide.
In the 15th minute Mounties gave away cheap field position with a penalty and then a bad read in defence on the left side saw Penrith open their account and it was 16-6.
The game then started to degenerate and with ill discipline from both teams the penalties started to flow and in the 24th minute it was all but farcical as a large group of players from both teams commenced a melee mid field just out from the Mounties line.
While this was occurring play went on and Penrith were able to dive over next to the posts and a try was awarded to make it 16-12 in favour of Mounties with a series of running infringements ensuing from that point.
In the 35th minute a series of dubious penalties to the home team had Mounties on the back foot and a try off the back of one of those saw Penrith grab the lead and at the half time break it was Penrith leading by 18-16 with the Mounties leading the penalty count by 6-4.
From the kickoff of the second half a great shot in defence by Jarred Brackenhoffer saw the ball come away from the Penrith runner and Mounties were quick to spread the ball and send Joe Roqoco over after he ran a nice line and dived over near the posts and make it 22-18 in favour of Mounties.
From the restart Mounties ground their way up field and after a clearing kick Penrith were piggy backed down the ground with a bunch of innocuous penalties and in the 48th minute a cross field kick found the mark and they dived over in the corner to make it 22-22 after the conversion couldn't find the distance.
In the 56th minute Penrith received another penalty in front of the posts and they quickly took the two points on offer and the lead 24-22.
The game then turned sour when Kyle O'Donnell was put on report after a tackle that appeared to be legal and in the next set O'Donnell was on the receiving end when he was attacked around the head during a tackle and then set upon by the defenders who took exception to his attempts to free himself to play the ball.
With time out called by the referee, O'Donnell was cautioned and sent to the sin bin much to the disdain of captain Josh McCrone and his opposite number was then also cautioned and sent for a ten minute rest but to the disappointment of the Mounties players the clock was not stopped by the Penrith time keepers and three valuable minutes were lost to the game while the officials issued their warnings.
With both teams down to 12 Penrith were gifted field position and were good enough to convert it to points in the 71st minute and with the conversion they led 30-22.
Mounties tried hard in the final minutes to bridge the gap but it was mission impossible with momentum hard to come by with the amount of stoppages and penalties, Penrith eventually getting the better of the penalties by 10-8.
Best for Mounties up front were Lynch, O'Donnell and Nicholls who was playing in his 50th VB NSW Cup match for Mounties while McCrone and Lee had great touches the whole game.
Penrith Panthers 30 (E Aiona, S Scarlett, C Smith, M Filino, K Moss tries; C Harawira-Naera 5 goals) defeated Mounties 22 (J Hawkins, B Lee, S Duggan, J Rokoqo tries; Duggan 3 goals)
Mounties next game in the VB NSW Cup is against Illawarra at WIN Stadium next Saturday.