Penrith have claimed a thrilling 19-18 victory over Canberra at Carrington Park in Bathurst on Saturday thanks to a 79th-minute field goal from Peter Wallace.
Penrith led the majority of the second half 18-6 but a late fight-back from the Raiders levelled the game at 18-all with five minutes left to play. Wallace’s field goal came after attempts from both Aidan Sezer and Jamie Soward failed to find the mark.
With all the momentum with the Raiders in the final-quarter of the match, Penrith can count themselves lucky to come away with a win after an error-riddled second half.
Penrith were on the attack early in the match when a sliding run from Bryce Cartwright in the 3rd minute put them close to Canberra’s line and Jamie Soward took advantage, forcing a goal-line drop out with the boot. However, from the repeat set Soward dropped a routine ball to quickly hand over possession.
A piercing run from the Raiders had them on the attack in the 6th minute, but a lost ball saw Bryce Cartwright run 70 metres to score the opening try for the Panthers. Soward had an easy kick and made it 6-0 to the hosts.
Both sides were applying the pressure in the attacking ends, but it was Canberra who cracked the line when Joseph Leilua produced a nifty flick-pass to Jordan Rapana. The winger crossed in the corner for their first try and Croker converted to level the scores a 6-6.
Three consecutive penalties to the Panthers midway through the first half allowed them to test Canberra’s defence, and in the 23rd minute Panthers make-shift centre Tyrone Peachey snuck across for a try. Soward wasn’t able to convert, leaving a slim lead at 10-6.
Canberra turned up the heat when they forced two repeat, goal-line drop outs and they were looking dangerous with ten minutes left before halftime. Penrith held strong though, fighting their way out of trouble.
After some topsy-turvy play, Penrith looked to have scored when Suaia Matagi crossed the tryline but Raiders’ fullback Jack Wighton whacked the ball out of the Kiwi’s arms.
Just minutes later, another Panthers’ try seemed imminent but the hot-potato cross field passing was shut down when a Raiders player put a hand to the ball. From the following set, Penrith were awarded a penalty close to the posts and they didn’t hesitate in taking the penalty goal at the 37th minute mark.
Halftime: Panthers 12 Raiders 6
The players returned from the sheds at halftime with the sun bearing down on Carrington Park and both sides steadied themselves in the opening minutes, trying not to make an error.
However, after Penrith lost James Fisher-Harris in the 47th minute to an upper-body injury, it was them who would turnover possession with a knock-on. They then gave away two consecutive penalties, allowing Canberra to press downfield.
The green-machine’s Paul Vaughan was held up over the line in the 52nd minute and eventually the Panthers worked their way out of their own end.
Peta Hiku acted quickly and jumped on the ball when Matt Moylan put a short grubber-kick in just a metre out from the tryline, and when Soward found his reach from out wide, the Panthers led 18-6 after 56 minutes.
A penalty to the Raiders coming out of their own half almost proved costly for Penrith when Josh Papalli looked to have scored, but the video-referee determined he had been held up over the line.
The errors were flowing from both teams in the second-half and it would have left the coaches fuming, with the constant turnovers stifling the progression of the game.
Canberra would eventually break Penrith’s lead in the 70th minute through prop Shannon Boyd who barged his way over. Croker converted the try to set-up a fiery final ten-minutes with the Panthers hold a 18-16 lead.
The momentum had swung to the Raiders and in the set from the kick-off they made a break downfield, with Jarod Croker finding Edrick Lee who stretched out and rolled to the tryline. Lee’s effort was sent to the bunker and it came back with a double-movement ruling, much to the relief of the Panthers.
The relief didn’t last long though with Canberra halfback Aidan Sezer putting up a cross-field kick that Jordan Rapana leaped onto to score a try. Trusty goal-kicker Jarrod Croker converted to level the game at 18-18.
Canberra missed a field-goal attempt with four minutes left to play, allowing Penrith to take the ball back up-field for a shot of their own. However, the hasty attempt from Soward went wide of the posts.
A 79th minute attempt from Panthers halfback Peter Wallace was successful, but the referees sent the play to the bunker to check for an obstruction. The play was approved by the bunker and it left Penrith with a one-point lead with a minute to play.
The Raiders were able to grab the ball back from kick off, lighting up Carrington Park for a thrilling finish but they couldn’t get into a position for a field goal and the game ended with Segeyaro taking off downfield after he picked up a loose ball.
Fulltime: Panthers 19 Raiders 18