Hervey Bay Seagulls winger Billy Stefaniuk sprints past a Western Suburbs defender on his way to scoring at Stafford Park on Saturday.
Hervey Bay Seagulls winger Billy Stefaniuk sprints past a Western Suburbs defender on his way to scoring at Stafford Park on Saturday. Valerie Horton

Panthers fightback dismays Seagulls

IT WAS as if Anthony Lindeberg had woken up from a horrible nightmare to only realise it wasn't a dream.

The Seagulls second-rower was in disbelief after Hervey Bay blew an opportunity to snap a three-game losing streak, as an under-strength Western Suburbs won a 26-24 thriller at Stafford Park on Saturday night.

The Seagulls looked winners for all money when they led by eight points with seven minutes to go, but the Panthers surged with two tries to snatch victory at the death.

The match winner came from halfback Joel Fagan with just one minute 40 seconds remaining when he dragged three opponents to the try line and found the chalk.

The disappointment on Lindeberg's face as he left the dressing sheds said it all.

"That's two weeks in a row we've got out to a lead and blown it. It hurts," the 22-year-old said.

"We led 18-0, how did we get beat 26-24?

"We had it all over them.

"They had eight out so if we can't beat Wests with a depleted side like that, then we've got a long way to go."

But take nothing away from the visitors.

Missing a raft of stars, the Panthers were held scoreless for 55 minutes before finding their attacking punch to post five of the last six tries of the match.

Silly mistakes in their own half and poor defence on their line when required has been a major problem for the Seagulls all season and it came back to haunt them on Saturday.

Lindeberg said they had to learn to stay switched on for the whole game.

"We played in patches," he said.

"We just didn't respect the ball.

"The signs are there, it's just we're a very young side, but what do you do?

"We go to training, put on a jersey next week and see how we go.

"They're a strong group and we all have belief in each other."

If there was one positive for Hervey Bay it was the first half.

The Seagulls led 14-0 at half-time courtesy of lock Tyson Woodman, who crashed over just before the break.

On the back of a well-executed kicking game from Tom Freshwater, the Seagulls continued to bustle the Panthers with rushing defence and in attack created opportunities for their outside men as winger Billy Stefaniuk completed his hat trick to push the lead to 18-0 early in the second half.

Had they showed more composure and confidence to absorb the pressure, the Seagulls might just have kicked away and won.



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