Peter Wallace’s NSW Cup Panthers have kept their minor premiership hopes alive, despite a 24-24 draw with the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium on Thursday evening.
A double to Christian Crichton wasn’t enough to secure the victory for the visitors in their final round of the regular season as they head into a bye week.
Preston Riki’s attempt to open Penrith’s account in the early minutes of the match was ruled a double movement, awarding South Sydney a penalty and an opportunity to put their foot down in attack.
In the 12th minute Rabbitohs skipper Jacob Gagai scooped up a loose ball in the middle of the Panthers line, running 20 metres downfield before offloading to former Panthers junior Jake Tago, who crossed untouched. Blake Taaffe converted the try from close range to give South Sydney an early lead.
Five minutes later the Rabbitohs extended their lead through a Dean Hawkins grubber that sat up into the hands of Maila Chan-Foon over the try-line. Taaffe slotted the two-pointer to make it 12-0.
Needing a response, the Panthers produced a textbook attacking play spreading the ball to the left edge through Jack Cole to find Christian Crichton heavily marked on the wing. Stepping inside, Crichton broke a two-man tackle before fending off another Rabbitoh to snag a four-pointer. Kurt Falls nailed the conversion from touch, reducing the deficit to six.
Only six minutes after scoring his first try, Crichton bagged another. After some creative attacking play from Soni Luke and Lindsay Smith around the ruck created a left edge overlap, sending Crichton flying over the sideline to ground the ball in the corner. Falls levelled the scores with his conversion from touch.
In the 39th minute, 19-year-old Cole intercepted a South Sydney pass before running almost 80 metres to score behind the posts. Falls put the Panthers six points clear of the home side after the half-time siren.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 18 - RABBITOHS 12
South Sydney hooker Peter Mamouzelos made the most of a penalty in the 55th minute, taking a tap-and-go before splitting the Penrith line to score undefended. Taaffe added the extras, making it 18-apiece with 25 minutes left of play.
Winding back the close, Rabbitohs winger Josh Mansour executed a cross field kick for Hawkins to score 10 minutes later and Taaffe converted the try to extend the home side’s lead.
After receiving three consecutive penalties within 20 metres of their line, Panthers fullback Isaiah Iongi crossed for a four-pointer in the 77th minute to give Penrith an opportunity to steal the win. Falls kicked the two-pointer to lock up the scores once more.
Falls attempted a field-goal in the 79th minute, but the kick waved to the left of the uprights, resulting in a draw.
Panthers now rely on the Newtown Jets’ results in their final two games of the season to determine who claims the minor premiership.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 24 - RABBITOHS 24