The Penrith Panthers move into second position on the VB NSW Cup ladder setting up a mouth-watering clash with the unbeaten Mounties at Aubrey Keech Oval next Saturday.
The Panthers claimed another come-from-behind victory at home to defeat the New Zealand Warriors 34-20.
The Warriors dominated the first half to lead 16-6 but a Will Smith charge-down and try on the stroke of half-time changed the course of the game allowing the Panthers to outscore the Warriors 28-4 to record their third win in a row.
The Warriors made just the one late change with Simon Luafalealo replacing Viliami Kaveinga on the wing. Conversely the Panthers were forced into making some late changes particularly Adam Docker, who pulled out with illness after the warm-ups, joining Adrian Davis and Tupou Sopoaga who had also succumbed to injury, with Ben Murdoch-Masila, Matt Eisenhuth (both bench) and Tom Eisenhuth (wing) the replacements.
Penrith got off to a flying start leading 6-0 after just seven minutes when a quick shift right allowed Sam Scarlett to put Dave Simmons through the gap and score from close range.
New Zealand struck back quickly when a quick shift right allowed David Fusitu’a to get the better of his opposite number and score in the right corner. Then in the 17th minute, a burst from halfway by Api Pewhairangi allowed the five-eighth to put the “Flying Fish”, Glen Fisiiahi, down the left touchline to score in the corner. Simmons was placed on report for a dangerous tackle in trying to deny the try. Pewhairangi’s successful conversion from the sideline saw the Warriors take the lead 10-6.
The Warriors dominated the next twenty minutes as their big forward pack started to offload at will, allowing their halves to set up their outside supports. Their dominance was finally rewarded in the 36th minute when Fusitu’a scored his second try after throwing a dummy from 15m out and strolling through a yawning gap to extend the lead to ten.
Just when the Warriors seemed set to take that lead into half time, Will Smith charged down and regathered the loose ball to run 30 metres before rolling over the try-line to reduce the deficit to 16-12.
Smith’s try proved pivotal as the Panthers came out after half-time to score two quick tries in the opening ten minutes of the half.
The first coming from a terrific cut-out pass from the dummy half, Sione Katoa, to find an unmarked Eddie Aiono to score from close range, before another sweeping right side play inside the Warriors 20m zone saw Simmons put Akeripa on a bumping run to the try line. Both tries were converted from by Smith and Penrith suddenly led 24-16.
A controversial try to Ken Maumalo in the 54th minute allowed the Warriors to half the gap after it appeared that Scarlett did enough in cover defence to force the winger to put the ball down outside the field of play.
The try served to motivate the Panthers as they extended the lead back out to 10 points after a Will Smith chip kick from 40 metres out was remarkably regathered by Brendan Attwood to score in the left corner with 17 minutes remaining.
Scarlett sealed the win for the Panthers with six minutes remaining after a brilliant individual try from 10 metres out. Scarlett stepped in and then away from several defenders to score.
Penrith officials face an anxious wait after referee Damian Briscoe placed Sam Anderson, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Leilani Latu on report for placing an opponent in a dangerous position.
Next Saturday, Penrith travel to Aubrey Keech Reserve for what promises to be the game of the season thus far against the table-topping Mounties while the Warriors will return home for a vital clash against Newtown.
Penrith Panthers 34 (D Simmons, W Smith, E Aiono, N Akeripa, B Attwood, S Scarlett tries; W Smith 5 goals) bt New Zealand Warriors 20 (D Fusitu’a 2, G Fisiiahi, K Maumalo tries; A Pewhairangi 2 goals)