A Kurt Falls penalty goal after the siren handed the NSW Cup Panthers a dramatic 24-22 comeback victory over South Sydney Rabbitohs at Apex Oval on Sunday.
The Panthers trailed by 12 points with 20 minutes to play but converted tries to Izack Tago and Jaeman Salmon locked the game up, before the Rabbitohs were pinged for being offside directly in front of the posts in the final seconds of the contest.
Panthers coach Peter Wallace was dealt a late blow ahead of kick-off with prop Alec Susino suffering a toe injury after touching down in Dubbo. Adam Fearnley joined the bench while Eddie Blacker moved into the starting side.
The Rabbitohs were the first to trouble the scorers as halves Troy Dargan and Dean Hawkins shifted to ball and found Burns, who ran a great line to score. Hawkins converted the four-pointer to take the score to 6-0.
Hawkins nailed a 20/40 shortly after to put the Rabbitohs back on the attack and Jacob Gagai scored in the left corner. Hawkins’ conversion attempt hit the post and bounced away.
South Sydney went further ahead after 18 minutes when Dargan hit Taane Milne on the chest with a great ball. The experienced centre got on the outside of Brent Naden to give the Rabbitohs a 14-point lead. Hawkins once again hit the upright with his attempted conversion.
Panthers fullback Suniu Turuva produced a great left-hand fend on Dargan to get Penrith on the scoreboard in the 20th minute. Falls couldn’t convert from out wide, meaning the score remained 14-4 in favour of South Sydney.
The Panthers were forced to defend multiple attacking raids late in the half but held firm and the Rabbitohs lead was kept to 10 points at the break.
HALF-TIME: Rabbitohs 14 - Panthers 4
The Panthers broke through just three minutes into the second half. John Faiumu broke free and a just a couple of plays later the barnstorming second-rower beat three defenders as he spun his way over the line. Falls converted from out wide.
Rabbitohs fullback Blake Taaffe put the home side back in control when he set up Dargan with a slicing run through the Panthers defence. Hawkins adjusted the radar and snuck his conversion inside the right post.
Brent Naden was penalised for a high shot in the 60th minute of the game. Hawkins converted the penalty goal to give the Rabbitohs a 12-point lead.
With time running down, Salmon put Tago in the clear and he beat Taaffe on the inside to score under the posts. Falls added the extras to give the Panthers a sniff with ten minutes remaining.
Minutes later Steven Marsters put down a high ball and the Panthers kept the ball alive. Smith, Tago and May were all involved in the lead up and it was May who found Salmon in support to score the Panthers fourth try of the afternoon. Falls converted from an acute angle to level the scores with five minutes to play.
Yileen Gordon tried to thwart a Panthers field goal attempt in the 79th minute but was penalised for not being square at marker. Falls stepped up to seal a dramatic comeback victory and keep the NSW Cup Panthers undefeated in 2021.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 24 – Rabbitohs 22