The Penrith Panthers SG Ball premiership defence is over, suffering a nail-biting 10-8 loss to the Newcastle Knights in the semi final on a grey afternoon at Leichhardt Oval.
The Panthers went on the attack almost immediately after receiving a penalty for a late hit on the kicker. From the ensuing set, Jirah Liddiard regathered a bomb and threw an extraordinary overhead pass to David Afu to score in the corner, taking a 4-0 lead.
The Knights had a couple of chances, however they were denied by strong defence and a forward pass.
A smart grubber from captain Luke Hanson in the 19th minute earnt the Panthers a repeat set and they capitalised on the opportunity when Hanson threw a spectacular cut out pass to Nick Murphy to score in the corner, extending the Panthers lead to 8-0.
The Knights struck back in the final minute of the half, keeping the ball alive on the last to score in the corner through Fletcher Sharpe. Ethan Ferguson converted to reduce the Panthers lead to 8-6 at the break.
Both sides created chances throughout the second half, but neither were able to take advantage for the first 20 minutes.
A poor kick compounded by a penalty put the Panthers under pressure and the Knights finally broke the stalemate, scoring in the left-hand corner through Kyle McCarthy to take a 10-8 lead with 14 minutes remaining.
With time running out, tempers flared after a dangerous tackle by the Knights. Cooper Bigeni was sin binned for his role in the tackle, while Luron Patea was also sent for ten minutes as third man in, leaving both sides with 12.
A break by Murphy in the final two minutes put the Panthers in range for one last attacking chance, however Delahia Wigmore lost the ball attempting to score, leaving the Panthers to suffer a heartbreaking defeat to end their season.