Damp and overcast conditions heralded the arrival of Notts Moderns to Dunston for the first round of this year's NLD competition.
Moderns were without several players due to a D of E weekend. Panthers were missing Aaron Blair and Max Woolgar - Norton but welcomed back Lucas Bushby, who had recovered from an ankle injury.
A cagey, well matched first half ensued with play rolling up and down the field but neither side able to really get the upper hand.
Then a kick through and chase by Moderns caught Panthers off guard, resulting in them scoring right between the sticks.
With the easy conversion added it left Panthers down by 7 points just 11 minutes into the game.
Unphased, Panthers continued to attack. Strong ball carrying especially by flanker Connor Rimington and fullback Jake Wright kept the forward momentum, but the isolated runners were readily dealt with by Modern's defence. Even with the visitors reduced to 14 men following a yellow card for a dangerous tackle Panthers were unable to make the break though.
With Moderns back at full strength Panthers continued to press. Squandered overlaps to both left and right sides looked like leaving Panthers with nothing to show for their efforts. Then several phases of forward play saw Toby 'T - Dog' Woolgar-Norton crash over from close range in the 23rd minute.
Despite the conversion being central, pressure to take it quickly by drop kick saw it pushed wide and left the half time score at 5 - 7 to Moderns.
With the game on a knife edge, the beginning of the second half saw Panthers come out with a renewed purpose. Rectifying some of the issues which had blunted their first half efforts saw them start to gain the upper hand. Further ball carrying by Toby Woolgar-Norton, Connor Rimington and Joe Hipkiss, now with close support, got them beyond the gain line. Better ball presentation then allowed Ed Bygrave, Archie Taylor and Ben Carley to all show their pace.
Modern's defence still held firm but Panthers spent more and more time in the final third of the field. 15 minutes gone, Panthers were awarded a scrum some 10 metres out. With the initial attacked from it repelled, the following ruck left enough of an unguarded blind side to allow Will Bygrave to snipe round from scrum half and touch down close to the near touchline and edge panthers ahead.
Despite an excellent strike, Ed Bygrave was unable to add the extra points from wide out.
With spirits lifted, Panthers kept up the pressure. Despite being reduced to 14 players after Ed Bygrave was shown a yellow card for a no arms tackle right under the nose of the referee, further phases of play in Modern's 22 started to stretch the opposition's defensive line and ended in almost identical fashion. Once again, Will Bygrave darted round from the back of a ruck and forced his way over the line to claim a brace of tries just 5 minutes apart.
With the conversion in virtually the same spot, unfortunately the outcome was also the same but still saw Panthers with an eight point lead and 15 minutes still to play.
Fatigue and frustration started to show for Moderns as Panthers continued to up the work rate. With a maul just outside the 22 over towards the far side Lucas Bushby made a blind side break and breezed past several defenders to score to the right of the posts. A little closer in this time Ed Bygrave made no mistake and added the extra two points .
Still with 10 minutes to go Panthers found themselves down to 14 men once again as Ben Carley was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on. But Moderns had nothing left to offer and could not make the advantage pay. Both teams looked completely spent as the final whistle blew to leave Panthers worthy winners with the final score standing at Panthers 22, Notts Moderns, 7