The Panthers are through to a Semi-Final showdown against Brisbane after battling to a 22-10 victory over Manly Sea Eagles at Allianz Stadium.
The class of Bryce Cartwright stood tall for the visitors with his introduction in to the game proving to be the difference as he scored a try and set-up two others.
The Panthers were gifted an early opportunity to open the scoring after Jake Trbojevic spilt the ball off the opening set, leading to a penalty goal for Nathan Cleary in the 2nd minute to put his side 2-0 up.
They nearly repaid the favour from the restart when Tyrone May fumbled the kick but Dylan Edwards would spare his teammates blushes by reading the direction of a kick to defuse the danger.
The Panthers had the run of play for much of the opening period until an error from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in attack was swooped on by Matthew Wright, leading to Dylan Walker scoring on the next phase. He couldn’t convert his own try as the score remained 4-2 after 28 minutes.
A second wind of pressure would see the Panthers retake the lead in the 34th minute after the introduction of Bryce Cartwright. Cleary’s stabbed kick struck the padding and fell kindly for Cartwright to pick up and score next to the uprights, allowing his halfback a simple conversion for an 8-4 lead.
Another penalty goal to Cleary on the stroke of half-time would take the Panthers out to a converted-try lead at the break.
HALF-TIME: Manly Sea-Eagles 4 – 10 Penrith Panthers
A scrappy affair resumed following the restart as both sides were intent on inflicting as much pain on the opposition as possible.
Manly went closest to scoring only to be denied twice by The Bunker. First Walker was adjudged to have been offside from a Daly Cherry-Evans kick, before Akuila Uate was pinged for the same infringement.
However, the Sea Eagles weren’t to be denied on the hour mark when Lewis Brown capitalised on an error and pierced the Panthers defence to help bring his side level following Wright’s conversion.
With a tense final five minutes brewing, Cartwright would again step up to provide the difference.
Firstly, his blind-side kick popped up favourably for Tyrone Peachey who scored after it ricocheted off his chest and rolled to the in-goal. Cleary’s conversion made the score 16-10.
And he cap off a hard fought win with a solo, spinning effort with a minute remaining on the clock to seal a 22-10 victory and book a date with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium next week.
FULL-TIME: Manly Sea-Eagles 10 – 22 Penrith Panthers