Penrith Panthers downed the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 29-22 at CommBank Stadium on Sunday, writing the club into history as the first team since 1982 to win premierships in SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup all in the same year.
After finishing the regular season in second, a man-of-the-match performance from hooker Soni Luke sealed the deal for the Panthers, who proved too strong in defence, holding Canterbury-Bankstown out in the dying moments.
The Panthers opened the scoring in the seventh minute through winger Sunia Turuva, who leaped into the left corner to ground the ball, but Kurt Falls couldn’t convert from touch.
Canterbury-Bankstown responded six minutes later when a kick from Brandon Wakeham connected with Jayden Okunbor mid-air, the right-edge winger grounded the ball in specular fashion to level the scores. Wakeham kicked the conversion from long-range to give the Bulldogs a two-point lead.
Attacking mastermind Soni Luke confused Canterbury-Bankstown’s defence with a grubber off dummy-half that set up Falls under the posts in the 18th minute. The five-eighth converted his own try to re-gain the lead.
In the 36th minute,19-year-old Jack Cole scooped up a loose ball that was lost by the Bulldogs on the 40-metre line. The NSWRL Jersey Flegg Player of the Year was too quick for the Canterbury-Bankstown defence, who struggled to get a hand on him as he approached the try-line. Falls converted the try to give his team a handy lead.
Halfback Sean O’Sullivan pulled the trigger on a field-goal only a minute after Falls’ conversion to give Peter Wallace’s side an 11-point lead at the break.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 17 - BULLDOGS 6
Turuva was denied the opening try of the half after the video referee ruled an obstruction against the Bulldogs defenders.
The resuming penalty kick from Wakeham travelled 40-metres, bringing the Bulldogs into their attacking half where a chip and chase play from Khaled Rajab resulted in a try to centre Declan Casey. Wakeham added the extras to make the score 17-12.
Okunbor claimed a double 10 minutes later after he was left alone on the wing when Turuva ran into the line to make a tackle. Wakeham failed to convert from touch.
A smart kick-off from the mountain men saw the ball bounce over the sideline and into touch, granting them possession in their attacking 20. Luke scooped up the ball from dummy-half and faked a pass to his right before diving over. Falls kicked the conversion to give Penrith some space to breathe.
Canterbury-Bankstown second-rower Jackson Topine found a hole in the Panthers defence six minutes later, burrowing himself over to add four more points to the Bulldogs’ tally.
In the 74th minute Turuva got his double, in the exact same fashion his earlier attempt was disallowed. With a conversion to promise Penrith the Championship, Falls’ did not disappoint, kicking the goal from touch.
The video referee alleviated the pressure in the dying minutes, overturning a Canterbury-Bankstown try ruling.
Penrith Panthers will now play back-to-back QLD Cup Premiers Norths Devils in the NRL State Championship Grand Final at 1:20pm at Accor Stadium on Sunday 2 October.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 29 - BULLDOGS 22