The Panthers have wrapped up their second minor premiership in three years with a tense and tough 26-22 win over the Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium on Thursday night.
With the scores locked 22-22 and golden point beckoning it was tireless back-rower Liam Martin who surged over from close range to secure the Panthers' 19th win of the season.
After a ferocious start defensively the Panthers were able to cash in when Stephen Crichton swooped on a scrappy Damien Cook pass and raced 60 metres to score. The centre converted his own try for a 6-0 lead after just four minutes.
The Rabbitohs then produced some crisp attack and went close to scoring in the right hand corner but Jaxson Paulo was denied by desperation defence by Viliame Kikau and Sean O'Sullivan.
Crichton intercepts and streaks away
The Panthers No.7 then produced a 40-20 in his team's next set but they were unable to capitalise and the Rabbitohs rolled straight up the other end and crossed when Alex Johnston finished off slick work from Cody Walker and Isaiah Tass.
An error from Latrell Mitchell in the play-the-ball gave the Panthers field position and Dylan Edwards made the Bunnies pay when he raced 30 metres to score his eighth try of the season.
Both sides then butchered tryscoring opportunities - Paulo spilling the ball over the line for Souths before Martin made a mess of a put-down after chasing through a grubber kick.
May saves a certain try
It was the Rabbitohs who made amends soon after when Mitchell delivered a sublime flick pass to Walker who left Edwards in his wake to score under the posts.
A penalty against Kikau for ruck interference gave the Rabbitohs a chance to level up at 12-12 and that's how they went to the break.
The second half opened in frenzied fashion with Paulo seeming certain to score when he went for an intercept 20 metres out from Penrith's line only to spill the ball.
Mitchell then took off from his own end and got to halfway before throwing a high pass to Paulo who couldn't handle.
The Panthers continued the trend of bombed chances when Martin got over the line again and failed to ground the ball but took the lead 14-12 through a Crichton penalty goal in the 50th minute.
Four minutes later the premiers extended their lead when Api Koroisau kicked out of dummy half and Spencer Leniu grounded the ball after Jai Arrow failed to clean up in-goal.
Down by eight with 18 minutes to play, the Rabbitohs hit back when centre Campbell Graham celebrated his return from injury with a try, finishing off good lead-up work by Keaon Koloamatangi and Mitchell.
Panthers trick play snatches the lead
In the 70th minute Johnston continued his remarkable tryscoring form when he crossed in the corner courtesy of a majestic pass from Walker and Mitchell slotted the conversion from touch to make it 22-20 to Souths.
The Panthers drew level with four minutes to play when Mitchell dived on the ball in the ruck just out from the Souths line and was ruled to have been inside the 10 metres.
A dropped bomb by Paulo with three minutes to play gave the Panthers a chance to break the deadock and Martin powered over from close range to wrap up a memorable win.
Match: Rabbitohs v Panthers
Round 23 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
- Rabbitohs winger Alex Johnston has scored in seven games in a row for the first time in his career and now has 19 tries in his last 10 games.
- The Rabbitohs came up with six line breaks to Penrith's one in the first half.
- In his first game since Round 16, Campbell Graham hit the ground running for the Rabbitohs, making 123 metres from 11 runs in the opening half.
- Isaah Yeo played a captain's knock for the Panthers with 165 run metres and 45 tackles.
- The Panthers have wrapped up the fourth minor premiership in club history, including two in the past three years.
Edwards back with a bang
- Panthers centre Stephen Crichton has now scored in six consecutive games against the Rabbitohs.
- Damien Cook worked tirelessly in defence for the Rabbitohs, racking up 58 tackles for the night.
- Taylan May made a strong return from injury with 172 metres and five tackle breaks for Penrith.
- The Rabbitohs have not defeated the Panthers at Accor Stadium since round 17, 2017.
- Latrell Mitchell had two try assists, four line break assists and five tackle breaks for the Rabbitohs.
- Apart from his match-winning try Liam Martin also had 16 runs for 148 metres and six tackle breaks.
Johnston doing what he does best
Play of the Game
In a first half full of quality attack from last year's grand finalists, it was a man who missed the 2021 decider coming up with a piece of magic to lay on a try. Latrell Mitchell has been in sublime form since returning from a hamstring injury and with his team trailing 12-4 he stood in the tackle of Jaeman Salmon and Liam Martin and delivered a glorious flick pass to Cody Walker. The five-eighth exploded into the hole and left Dylan Edwards standing to cross for his 12th try of the season. If the Bunnies are to go one better in 2022 then their superstar fullback, who missed the big one last year due to suspension, is sure to be a central figure.
Mitchell magic puts Walker over
What They Said
"I thought we probably could have gone for field goal on one of the plays before it. We ended up shifting and then I thought we had probably blown our chance for it but obviously incredibly smart from Api with everyone thinking we'd try to get back to the middle of the field for a kick, he darts down the short side with really good deception and puts Marto over. Very happy for Marto actually, he bombed a couple so to get the walk-off one there I was stoked for him." - Panthers captain Isaah Yeo on Liam Martin's match-winning try
Panthers: Round 23
"I have given up trying to figure out what that rule is. He [Izack Tago] stops in the line, there's no way Lachie [Ilias] can get off that so... but we conceded 26 points and we shouldn't be conceding 26 points in a game like that when Penrith are missing their two most creative players. A few blokes missed their assignment in defence tonight and that's what cost us." - Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou on the Dylan Edwards try that was checked for obstrucion and cleared
Rabbitohs: Round 23
The Rabbitohs face one of the tougher runs home with clashes against the Cowboys (h) and Roosters (a). They are yet to face the Cowboys in 2022 but did beat the Roosters in Round 3 at Accor Stadium.
The Panthers are at home to the Warriors in Round 24 before heading to Townsville in the final round to meet the Cowboys. They welcome back enforcer James Fisher-Harris from suspension for the Warriors game.