A Matt Moylan-inspired Panthers have clinched victory from the jaws of defeat with a miraculous 24-20 victory at Carrington Park in Bathurst.
Trailing by eight with three minutes left on the clock, the captain led from the front by setting up two late tries to seal victory.
A fortuitous call from the referee gifted the ball to the Raiders, which they would score from following a set play off a scrum inside the opening five minutes. The Raiders spread the ball to the right edge and found Jordan Rapana in open territory to stroll over out wide. Jarrod Croker pulled his conversion wide, keeping the score at 4-0.
A slow start from the Panthers continued to gift the Raiders possession in prime position but they would hold out and manage to level the scores on their first foray forward through Matt Moylan in the 12th minute. With the defence sliding, the captain stepped back inside and broke free of the line to score between the uprights. The boot of Nathan Cleary edged the Panthers ahead 6-4.
Both sides continued to shoot themselves in the foot as the half wore on with errors and penalties halting any opportunity to put points on the board. Brain explosions from backrowers Joe Tapine and Corey Harawira-Naera led to their sin-binning after the half-time whistle, typifying a frustrating half for both sides.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 6 -4 Canberra Raiders
The Raiders got the game back underway after the break and were forced in to their second kick-off in a matter of minutes after the Panthers went the length of the field to extend their lead. Moylan released Dylan Edwards to link up with his halfback Cleary back on the inside, who would convert his own try to push the score out to 12-4.
However, the Raiders would respond just as quickly after a mid-air contest fell favourably to Croker. Jack Wighton contested a high kick with Edwards, which fell in to the hands of Croker who put Nick Cotric over the line. Croker’s successful conversion would bring the score back to 12-10.
The visitors thought they had the lead in the 51st minute when Kurt Baptiste ran on to a short kick but the Bunker ruled a knock-on against the Raiders hooker.
They weren’t to be denied moments later when Elliott Whitehead rose highest to claim an Aidan Sezer bomb. Whitehead leaped to claim the kick, eventually falling in to the hands of Joey Leilua to score out wide. Croker slotted the conversion to make it 16-12.
The Raiders stretched their lead on the hour mark thanks to Cotric’s second. Their left-edge drew the Panthers defence in leaving the winger unmarked in the corner. This time Croker couldn’t land his conversion, keeping the score at 20-12.
With the game all but over, Moylan stepped up to drag his side over the line with two expertly executed assists in the final three minutes. First he would put Harawira-Naera under the black dot with a show and go, before releasing Tyrone Peachey to race away and seal a dramatic four-point win.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 24 – 20 Canberra Raiders