Highlights: Roos v Panthers (Rd 15)
The Wyong Roos defeated the defending premiers 19-18 in dramatic fashion to climb into the top four of the VB NSW Cup ladder with nine rounds to go.
The Penrith Panthers were in the drivers seat leading 18-6 in the second half but failed to put the game beyond reach of the Roos.
It was a disappointing finish to the match for the Panthers who conceded penalities and possession to gift the Roos their opportunity to steal the game.
Wyong’s Tyler Cornish and Samisoni Langi were instrumental in the comeback win with each setting up a try before Cornish landed the match-winning field-goal in the last minute of play.
The win takes Wyong back into the top four and sees Penrith’s lead at the top of the NSW Cup reduced to two points as both sides head into next week’s bye.
Penrith were forced into some changes with Robert Jennings omitted from the side altogether, replaced by Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, while Rodney Coates (shoulder) was ruled out and replaced by Reece Goldsmith, playing his first game in eight weeks.
Wyong were given a boost with the late inclusion of Brendon Elliott, Abraham Papalii and the experienced Willie Manu, with Bennett Leslie, Leivaha Pulu and Jack Siejka making way for the trio.
Wyong exploded out of the blocks to register first points when Tyler Cornish provided a nice short ball for Lagi Setu to explode through the defensive line from 25 metres out and with the conversion, led 6-0 after 8 minutes of play.
Against the run of play, Tupou Sopoaga took on the line from 10 metres out on a surging run to power his way over for a try that would level the scores after 25 minutes.
Penrith took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Will Smith attacked the blindside before placing a grubber kick towards the left corner, which saw Omar Slaimankhel slip over in attempting to retrieve the kick, allowing the older brother of Panthers NRL fullback, Dallin, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, to regather and score. Will Smith’s conversion hit the post but Penrith had all the momentum heading into half-time leading 10-6.
Penrith were quicker out of the blocks after half-time and were rewarded with tries to Will Smith in the 47th minute and Adrian Davis, scoring his try for the Panthers midway through the second half, to open up a 18-6 lead despite Smith failing to convert for a greater margin.
Wyong were back in the game, down by just six points three minutes later when Samisoni Langi went to the line, before finding Eloni Vunakece to storm over for his first try of the season.
Wyong reduced the deficit to just two points with six minutes remaining when numbers to the right allowed Cornish to set up Nathan Smith to crash over out wide from close range but Cornish missed the kick.
An offside penalty awarded ten metres from in front allowed the Roos to level the scores.
Just as it seemed Penrith would seal the win following a line-break by Aiono line-break and subsequent penalty, the Wyong Roos charged down the Panthers’ field-goal attempt and Abraham Papalii regathered to make his way deep into Penrith’s territory.
Wyong composed themselves to set up the field goal, winding the clock down and drawing players out of position within the defensive line before Cornish, calmly nailed the match-winning field goal from 25 metres close to in front of the posts.
Both Wyong and Penrith now have the bye next weekend, before they meet again for in two weeks’ time at Pepper Stadium.
Wyong 19 (L Setu, E Vunakece, N Smith tries; T Cornish 4 goals; T Cornish 1 field goal) def Penrith 18 (T Sopoaga, M Watene-Zelezniak, W Smith, A Davis tries; W Smith 1 goal) at Central Coast Stadium.