The Panthers are through to the NSW Cup Grand Final after a convincing 31-12 win over Wentworthville at Leichardt Oval this afternoon.

An hour before kickoff we got the news that Kevin Kingston, Isaah Yeo and Dave Simmons would be making their return from injury to boost Penrith’s ranks in what was always going to be a top class showdown between these two sides.

The game was a little scrappy at times with plenty of mistakes from both teams. The Panthers struggled through the first half but managed to regain control in the second, keeping the Magpies scoreless for the last 40 mins of the match.

Here’s how the game played out.

Five minutes after the kickoff, Penrith put the first points on the board when Kevin Kingston broke through the Magpies defence and took off down the field, sprinting 20m before offloading to Ryan Simpkins who had plenty of room to move, and he carried the ball the final 20m over the line to score. Wes Naiqama converted to give the Panthers an early 6-0 lead.

Wentworthville hit back in the 11th minute after being awarded a penalty 30m out from their line, and after getting the ball to within 10m, Luke Kelly offloaded to Jake Butler-Fleming who was left wide open on the wing, and he ran the ball over to score. The kick levelled the score at 6-6.

In the 20th minute Penrith copped back to back penalties inside the Magpies 10m line and despite their best efforts, Wentworthville’s #17 Danny Howard managed to barge his way through our defenders to get the ball down under the posts. The ball was sent straight through the uprights, giving the Magpies a 12-6 lead.

For the next 20 minutes Wentworthville dominated possession and forced multiple errors from the Panthers side, and it looked as though we could have an upset on our hands. That was until the final minute of the half, when Isaah Yeo broke through the Magpies backline and took off down the field, sprinting 30m before passing to Kevin Naiqama who put his head down and charged at our line, beating several Wentworthville defenders to get the ball over. With Wes Naiqama on the bench, Tom Humble took the kick to even the score at 12-12.

HALF TIME: 12-12

Penrith struck first this half with big Reagan Campbell-Gillard steamrolling his way under the posts after a beautiful dummy from Luke Capewell caught the Magpies defence off-guard, and RCG collected the ball and barged his way over. The conversion put the Panthers ahead 18-12 in the 44th minute.

In the next set, Vaipuna Tia Kilifi injured his ankle in a tackle and had to be helped from the field. Its believed he may have fractured his fibula.

We were in again in the 46th minute after Humble sent the ball to Waqa Blake on the right wing, who made a few metres before getting a great offload away to Dave Simmons, and he then passed to fullback Kieran Moss who outran a handful of Magpie defenders to run the ball over the line. Wes Naiqama added the two to put Penrith ahead 24-12.

In the 57th minute the Panthers scored their fourth unanswered try after efforts by close to half the team. Nathan Smith gave the ball to Blake who threw a blind short-ball to Wes Naiqama on the wing, and he took off down the sideline before coming under pressure. Kevin Kingston was on his inside and collected the pass, carrying the ball 20m before offloading to Luke Capewell who was in prime position in front of the posts to run the ball over. With the conversion, Penrith extended their lead to 30-12.

The Panthers came under pressure in the 67th minute when the Magpies ran the ball up to their line and put a grubber in to get the ball over their line, but some great defence by Penrith held them up and it was play on.

In the next set, Humble was close enough to slot a field goal to give the Panthers a 19 point lead with just over 10 minutes to go.

For the remainder of the game, both sides shared possession and tried hard to put more points on the board, but defence from both sides was just as fierce and the score line remained unchanged, sending the Panthers into next week’s Grand Final.

FULL TIME: 31-12 Panthers

Penrith will play the winner of the second prelim final between Newcastle and Illawarra.