The Panthers kicked off their 2020 NRL season in spectacular style, as they came from behind to stun the Sydney Roosters 20-14 at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
It was a truly remarkable win by the Panthers, as they bounced back from a 12-0 deficit to knock off the reigning premiers, who had been in control for most of the night.
The Panthers’ first lead of the night did not come until the 70th minute, when Viliame Kikau scored the match-winning try. Kikau had earlier left the field with an injury, but returned to be Penrith’s hero.
Stephen Crichton made a super-sub cameo appearance, as he came from the bench to score an equalising try in the 62nd minute with his first touch of the football.
It did not look promising early on for the Panthers, as they sunk to an 8-0 deficit inside four minutes, before even touching the ball.
After the Panthers kick-off went out on the full, Kyle Flanagan booted a penalty goal to open the scoring. Then, Mitch Aubusson strolled over for the first try after the Panthers failed to defuse a cross-field bomb.
The Panthers kept their cool and began to ease themselves back into the contest, but the Roosters would score again.
Jake Friend rolled it to the in-goal for Siosiua Taukeiaho to score, and Flanagan’s conversion stretched the Roosters’ lead to 12-0 after 20 minutes.
The signs appeared ominous, but the Panthers held their nerve and then roared back to life with their first try of 2020.
Luai and Naden combine on the left edge
Jarome Luai made his mark in the no. 6 jersey, as he put in the perfect grubber for Brent Naden to zip through and touch down. Nathan Cleary added the extras from out wide, making it 12-6 after 28 minutes.
The Roosters threatened to hit back immediately after forcing a goal-line drop out, but the Panthers goal-line defence held firm. Penrith went into half-time trailing by six, a decent feat given the Roosters’ early dominance.
HALF-TIME: ROOSTERS 12 – PANTHERS 6
On the back of some wonderful runs by both Api Koroisau and Brian To’o, the Panthers reduced the margin to four points in the 47th minute with a Nathan Cleary penalty goal.
After some brave goal-line defence, Cleary put the Panthers back on the attack in the 52nd minute with a 40/20.
The Panthers were unable to convert the opportunity into points however, and the Roosters restored their six-point advantage soon after through a Flanagan penalty goal.
Stephen Crichton was brought on at fullback in the 62nd minute and made an instant impact, scoring a try with his first touch of the football as the Panthers drew level.
Mansour's sublime assist gifts Crichton a four-pointer
A wonderful Panthers backline movement unleashed Josh Mansour down the left wing, and he kicked back infield for Crichton to finish it off. Cleary added the extras, tying it up at 14-all.
Momentum was suddenly on the Panthers’ side, and they then hit the lead for the first time all night in the 70th minute.
The Panthers shifted it left once again, where Cleary took on the line before getting an arm free for Viliame Kikau to stroll over. Cleary came up clutch with the conversion from out wide, pushing the Panthers ahead by six points.
An Isaah Yeo line break in the 75th minute put the Roosters back under the pump, and then Viliame Kikau’s crunching tackle on James Tedesco earned the Panthers a repeat set.
The Panthers did not even give the Roosters another chance, and they came away with an unbelievable win over the reigning premiers.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 20 – ROOSTERS 14