The Penrith Panthers have won the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Grand Final after holding off a gutsy Wyong Roos outfit 20-12 at Leichhardt Oval.
The Panthers dominated the early exchanges as they threatened the Roos’ goal line with some threatening attacking raids, but were unable to draw first blood as the Roos’ defence held strong.
An infringement in the ruck just moments later gifted the Roos an easy two points, with Mitchell Cornish making no mistake with the conversion to give the Roos a handy 2-0 lead after just 10 minutes.
An array of handling errors from the Roos gifted the Panthers valuable field position in the hope of claiming the maiden try, and a cross-field kick landed in the arms Maika Sivo, but the speedster was put into touch by the scrambling Wyong defence.
Panthers held momentum for a majority of the opening 20 minutes but a quick burst down the blind side for Wyong nearly resulted in a try to Luke Sharpe, but the dynamic fullback was brought down five metres out from the line.
Panthers five-eighth Jerome Luai looked to have broken the deadlock after he support a contest between Luke Sharpe and his counterpart following a mid-field bomb, but the referee ruled a knock-on in the process so the Roos were given a reprieve.
Wyong bounced back from the early onslaught with Joseph Manu held up over the line, but they eventually found the breakthrough as Cornish laid a perfect pass for Brock Gray who crossed in the left-hand corner.
The Roos held onto a 6-0 lead with the Panthers threatening in the closing stages, and a deft kick from Nicholls somehow landed in the arms of Sivo to score their maiden try of the contest.
Nicholls converted to bring the games level at 6-all at half-time.
Panthers got off to the perfect start in the second half with some strong defensive efforts putting them straight on the attack, and centre Tony Satini wasted little time as he barged his way over to give his side a narrow four-point lead.
An attempted 40/20 kick from Nicholls was initially saved by a desperate Luke Sharpe, but winger Christopher Centrone was quickly pushed into touch before offloading back on the inside for a waiting Corey Waddell who strolled over for their third unanswered try.
Nicholls nailed the conversion from the sideline to take a 20-6 lead with just 20 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Panthers were looming for their fourth consecutive try and another cross-field kick from Nicholls found Sivo who offloaded to Jed Cartwright for a crucial four-pointer.
Just when the game looked all but over, Joseph Manu showed his class with a perfectly timed cut-out pass to John Tuivasa-Sheck who crashed his way over in the corner, with Paul Momirovski converting from the sideline to close the lead to eight points with just less than 10 minutes remaining.
Manu was having a brilliant second half and an early ball to the elusive centre saw him make a sharp break before flick passing to Tuivasa-Sheck, who brushed off a would-be defender before passing back to Manu but the scrambling Panthers defence held him up over the line.
Despite some last-ditch efforts from the Roos to salvage a potential comeback, the Panthers were able to hold strong and eventually come away with a valiant 20-12 victory.
Penrith Panthers 20 (M Sivo, J Cartwright, T Satini, C Waddell tries; D Nicholls 2 goals) def Roos 12 (B Gray, J Tuivasa-Sheck tries; P Momirovski, M Cornish goals)