Penrith Panthers battled past South Sydney Rabbitohs to secure their place in the Grand Final.
Both teams managed three tries apiece, with the goal-kicking from Nathan Clearly ultimately proving the difference.
Penrith now await their first Grand Final since 2003 whereas Wayne Bennett’s Bunnies bowed out in the Preliminary Final for the third consecutive season.
Story of the Match
The Souths started the stronger. After an early penalty goal miss by Adam Reynolds, he provided a cross-field kick for Alex Johnston to score the opening try.
Reynolds converted but the Panthers soon roared back as a high kick by Cleary was knocked-on by South’s Corey Allan before being scooped up by Brian To’o who crashed over.
Incredibly, both teams gambled and used up their Captain’s Challenge after just 17 minutes.
It did not stop Penrith, who soon took the lead as a chip-kick by Cleary was collected by Tyrone May who eased over behind the posts. Cleary easily converted and added a penalty goal to send the Panthers into halftime with a 14-6 lead.
Second-half recovery denied
The South’s hit back early in the second half as Dane Gagai cashed in on an earlier line break by Cameron Murray to score in the corner. Reynolds converted to take the match back to a two-point ball game.
Penrith then went close a couple of times through Stephen Crichton before they finally found a way over thanks to a line break by Isaah Yeo who was supported by Dylan Edwards who raced over between the posts.
Cleary’s goal took it back to an eight-point ball game, but the South’s set up a nerve-wracking finish.
A low pass to the ground by Cody Walker was ‘hacked’ on by Allan who incredibly touched the ball down in the corner.
Then Reynolds attempted a 40-20 kick but replays showed he was mere inches over the 40-metre line and so it was waved away by the match officials.
Penrith then held on to claim a famous victory to go within 80 minutes of their third ever Premiership title.