Bombed opportunities cost the ISP Panthers victory as their premiership defence ended with a 28-24 Preliminary Final loss to Newtown Jets at Leichardt Oval on Saturday.
The Panthers were given a scare in the 7th minute when Reubenn Rennie found the chalk, but the centre was penalised for a double movement after being cut down by Liam Coleman.
Liam Martin then nabbed the opening try for the Panthers in the 14th minute when he muscled his way through the Jets goal line defence. Adam Keighran converted to hand the Panthers a 6-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Ratu Tuisese seemingly scored the Panthers second try after spectacular offloads by Billy Burns and Tyrone Phillips in the 22nd minute, but the final pass was ruled forward and the winger was denied.
The Jets capitalised on the reprieve as winger Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga barged over in the corner. Kyle Flanagan crept in the conversion to level the scores after 27 minutes.
A Coleman line break put the Panthers back on the attack in the 29th minute. Despite a messy last-tackle option, Penrith regained their lead when Burns slipped through the defence and found Coleman in support. Keighran added the extras to make it 12-6.
After a Panthers 40/20 attempt went out on the full, William Kennedy sliced through to score a prompt response for the Jets. Flanagan's conversion attempt sailed wide and the Panthers remained in front after 34 minutes.
The Jets eventually stole the lead on the stroke of half-time however, as Williams' short ball allowed Rennie to reach out for the try line. Flanagan's sideline goal made it a four-point lead for the Jets at the break.
HALF-TIME: JETS 16 – PANTHERS 12
The Panthers quickly pegged the Jets back, with Wayde Egan pouncing from dummy half and flicking to Reed Izzard who busted the goal line defence. Keighran slotted the goal to edge the Panthers ahead 18-16 after 44 minutes.
The scoreboard continued to seesaw in the 47th minute when Blayke Brailey went short to Briton Nikora and the second-rower charged over the stripe. Flanagan's conversion was on target to push the Jets ahead 22-18.
Keighran came agonisingly close to an equaliser in the 57th minute when he took on the line, but the football came loose as he stretched out.
A line break by Newtown's Sione Katoa left the Panthers backpedalling in the 61st minute. Flanagan took advantage and grubbered in behind the defence, and Nikora pounced for his second. Flanagan's goal gave the Jets a 10-point cushion.
Egan's return from a 15-minute spell added some much-needed spark to the Panthers attack, and the hooker provided a deft kick from dummy half for Keighran to score. The five-eighth's conversion narrowed the deficit to 28-24 after 67 minutes.
Tuisese seemingly levelled the scores in the 71st minute when he drifted infield and lunged for the try line, but he came up millimetres short and knocked on.
The Panthers had a last-gasp opportunity to snatch victory, but Kaide Ellis was wrapped up after the siren as Penrith's ISP campaign came to a devastating end.
FULL-TIME: JETS 28 – PANTHERS 24