The Panthers are 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Premiers after celebrating a 20-12 win over Wyong Roos at Leichhardt Oval.
Captain Darren Nicholls led from the front for his side as he kicked the Roos in to submission with four assists from the boot, largely to the wing of Maika Sivo who wreaked havoc on the right edge.
It was a fitting end to a masterclass coaching performance from Garth Brennan throughout the season as they now prepare for an Intrust Super Championship blockbuster against PNG Hunters on NRL Grand Final day.
They started the brighter and went closest to opening the scoring when Jed Cartwright wrestled his way over the try line, but some last-ditch scrambling from the Roos denied him.
Instead, Wyong would take the lead when consecutive penalties piggy-backed them up field, leading to Mitch Cornish’s penalty goal in the 11th minute.
That wouldn’t stop the momentum of the Panthers as the Fijian combo of Viliame Kikau and Sivo produced solo efforts midway through the half to go within inches of the try line but both were denied by desperate Roos defence.
The Panthers finally cracked the Roos defence just shy of the hour mark when Jarome Luai put the finishing touches on a move that was created by a Darren Nicholls kick. However, the video ref intervened to deny him after Mason Cerruto knocked on in the lead-up.
Wyong would take advantage of the Panthers’ profligacy by extending their lead in the 33rd minute thanks to the combination of Cornish and Brock Gray. The halfback produced a finely-weighted pass for Gray to break through the line and take a 6-0 lead.
With the half winding down, the Panthers finally had their reward when Nicholls produced a pin-point kick for Sivo. The winger capitalised as he brushed off three defenders to bring his side level following Nicholls’ conversion.
HALF-TIME: Wyong Roos 6 – 6 Penrith Panthers
The momentum continued for the Panthers immediately following the restart as they ran in two quick-fire tries to open up a handy eight-point buffer.
Sivo dragged his opposite winger in to touch following a Nicholls kick to earn a repeat set, leading to Tony Satini scoring in the corner in the 45th minute after a well-timed pass from Cerruto allowed him to barge over his opposite man.
The boot of Nicholls was causing havoc and nearly led to a 40/20 moments later if not for the presence of Luke Sharpe. However the Roos fullback could only bat it back to Corey Waddell who swooped upon the loose ball to extend the lead to 14-6.
Their lead stretched out further on the hour mark after Nicholls once again put the ball on a dime for his winger. Sivo rose above Chris Centrone and found his centre Cartwright on the inside to score. Nicholls slotted the conversion from the sideline to make the score 20-6.
Wyong received a lifeline with ten minutes left in the contest when Joseph Manu produced a cut-out pass for Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck to reach over. Cornish’s conversion brought it back to 20-12.
Sivo was a regular contributor in attack but he saved his most vital contribution at the defensive end when he denied Manu a seemingly certain try.
The Panthers held their nerve in the dying moments to hang on to a 20-12 victory and seal a memorable victory to be named Premiers of the ISP competition.
FULL-TIME: Wyong Roos 12 – 20 Penrith Panthers