HEAD TO HEAD | Balmain Tigers

62 matches [1967-1996; 1998-1999]

22 wins, 37 losses, 3 draw

Stats: themightypanthers.com/results_headtohead_balmain.htm

The Balmain Tigers were a foundation team that had played in the first Sydney rugby league premiership season of 1908, and had been in the competition for nearly 60 years when the Panthers arrived in 1967.

Their first meeting was at Leichhardt Oval in the middle of May 1967. Balmain led 12-0 at half time, and whilst Penrith out scored their opposition in the second half, the Tigers won 15-5. The Tigers won 23-10 in the second round meeting in July at Sydney Sports Ground.

Penrith would finally register their first win in their fourth meeting – and first at Penrith Park, in the second round of the 1968 season. The visitors led 15-4 early in the second half, before two tries saw the Panthers gain the lead. The Tigers edged ahead with a field goal, before former Tigers player Bob Mara snapped a field goal three minutes from full time to lead 18-17, and held out to the siren to win by the barest of margins.

A 17-13 win at Penrith Park in 1969 had the ledger at 2 wins and 4 losses to round out the decade.

From 1970 to 1974, honours were evenly split throughout the season, with each team winning one match each during the regular season. In 1970, the Panthers won their first match at Leichhardt Oval, with a last minute field goal from yet another former Tiger, Laurie Fagan, breaking a 14-all deadlock.

From 1975 to 1979, Balmain dominated the head to head, winning 7 of the 10 matches. Amongst this was two draws – 19-all at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1977 and 18-all draw at Penrith Park in 1979. The only win for the Panthers during this stretch was at Penrith Park in 1978 – both teams were locked at 4-all at half time, before two second half tries to the Panthers saw them register a 10-4 win.

Into the 1980s, the Tigers continued to press further their ever growing advantage, winning the first four meetings of the decade. The Panthers would arrest this by a well-earned 15-7 win at Penrith Park in 1982, and in the return match later in the season a Mark Levy try in the dying minutes saw the Panthers grab an 18-all draw at Leichhardt Oval. The Panthers clawed themselves from a nine point deficit early in the second half to win 18-17 in the first round match in 1983 at Penrith Park.

From 1984 to 1987, the Panthers would taste victory only twice in eight matches – in 1984, Penrith were dominant in a 24-10 victory at Leichhardt Oval, and then in 1987 scored an upset 16-10 over their more fancied opponents at Penrith Park.

Penrith posted impressive 18-8 win at Penrith Park early in the 1988 season. The two teams would meet again in the penultimate round – the Panthers were trying to hold a spot in the congested top five whilst the Tigers were making a late season surge to make the top five. In a brutal encounter at Leichhardt Oval, the hosts led 10-2 at half time and while the Panthers rallied in the second half, went down by two.

A loss in the final round to Manly had forced the Panthers into a mid week play-off for fifth spot with the Tigers at Parramatta Stadium. A decimated Panthers fought bravely, trailing by only two midway through the second half before three Balmain tries blew open the contest, with the Tigers earning the last prized finals spot with a 28-8 win.

In 1989, once again the honours were evenly split in the regular season, with the Panthers winning 28-8 at Penrith Park and the Tigers winning comfortably at Leichhardt Oval in the final round.

The Panthers qualified for their second ever finals series, and would meet the Tigers the following Sunday in the qualifying final at the Sydney Football Stadium. For the Tigers, it had been the sixth time since 1983 that they were playing in September, and their greater experience in the arena was a major contributing factor towards their 24-12 win. However, the Panthers top 2 finish on the ladder meant that the loss did not mean elimination, and would live to fight another day. But they would lose the following week to Canberra, whilst Balmain would qualify for what would have ultimately been their last grand final appearance.

The nineties would start with Penrith getting the premiership points in a 24-10 win at Penrith Stadium, and then going down in a tight 9-4 loss at Leichhardt Oval later in the 1990 season.

From 1991 to 1994, Penrith won 6 of the 7 meetings – in the early 1990s, the NSWRL would further expand its footprint outside of NSW and Queensland, and was reflected in the location of two of these wins – a 14-0 win in Darwin during the 1991 season and then in 1994 the two teams going west to Perth with Penrith triumphing 24-0.

In the penultimate round of the 1991 season, minor premiers elect Penrith thumped the 12th placed Balmain 41-12 at Penrith Stadium, in what was Royce Simmons’ last home match at Penrith.

Come 1995, the Tigers would rename themselves the Sydney Tigers and relocate further west to Parramatta Stadium. The Tigers would record tight victories at their new home that year and then at Penrith Stadium in 1996.

In 1997, Balmain participated in the ARL whilst Penrith were in the rebel Super League.

With the formation of the National Rugby League in 1998, Balmain made the initial cut and were one of the 20 teams in the premiership. Penrith recorded a comfortable 32-18 victory over Balmain at Penrith Stadium in their solitary meeting that year.

With a 14 team competition for the 2000 season imminent, the Tigers had met some key criteria and could have stood alone, however, there were concerns about whether they could compete financially with the stronger clubs, so entered into a merger with Western Suburbs to form the Wests Tigers in July 1999. Only about a month before, the two teams played each other for the last time, with the Tigers winning 24-16.

Balmain today competes in the junior competitions, however, no longer have representation in the current Intrust Super Premiership, with the Magpies being the Wests Tigers’ feeder club. However, the Wests Tigers still play a number of home matches at their spiritual home of Leichhardt Oval.

Last updated 11 March 2023


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