Penrith Panthers claim minor premiership after enthralling win over South Sydney

The Penrith Panthers have risen to the Minor Premiership after beating South Sydney 26-22 in a classic clash.

In a thrilling contest that oscillated from one extreme to the other from the very first whistle, it was an undermanaged Panthers team that eventually came out on top, with Liam Martin scoring late to end the minor Premier League.

Penrith started the better of the two teams with her line speed on defense, controlling the bunnies and cramming them into her own half.

That pressure was soon shown when Stephen Crichton, after a mix-up in the ruck, picked up a stray ball to run 60 yards and scored a try in his sixth straight game against the Rabbitohs.

But Jason Demetriou’s troops refused to be infected by their opponent’s quick start as they continued to try to spread the ball and challenge the line.

They did two line breaks in quick succession, but couldn’t make them count. Alex Johnston’s chip over the top was wiped out before Viliame Kikau made a crucial tackle to stop Jaxson Paulo.

However, Johnston eventually put his name on the scoresheet when the prolific winger touched down in the corner. A late pass from Cody Walker that allowed him to saunter and score for the seventh straight game.

Despite the Rabbitohs’ wrestling momentum in the grand finals rematch, the Panthers did a good job of containing Cameron Murray’s influence.

He was often pressured from within and forced to play as a liaison without major cuts. His running game was non-existent as the No. 13 registered just 33 yards for the match.

After winning the physical fight and coming out on top, a Mitchell error gave the Panthers a good field position.

And they hit back through Dylan Edwards, who vaulted from the back of a scrum to score. After a lengthy check from the bunker, the attempt was awarded, despite calls for obstruction in advance.

Despite the Bunnies responding again, Mitchell made up for his earlier mistake with a brilliant offload around the corner. Walker lurked on his shoulder, somehow expecting the pass and scoring the final try in a breathless first half.

Ivan Cleary’s men regained the lead after the break with a penalty. Spencer Leniu then planted the ball off a cultivator to once again establish an eight-point lead.

However, the pattern of the game was well and truly established by now. Once one team gained the upper hand, the other rose off the canvas.

Campbell Graham made an impressive comeback on his return from injury – the center finished with over 100 yards and two line breaks.

South Sydney then finally scored in front for the first time of the game as Johnston dug in for his second of the night. Mitchell shoves one off the sidelines for a 22-20 lead.

But in the final minutes Penrith staged his own comeback. They leveled the scores with a penalty goal before Api Koroisau isolated Isaiah Tass to send Martin to claim the Minor Premiership.

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