The Wentworthville Magpies have shocked defending premiers the Penrith Panthers, defeating them 32-24 at a sold-out Panthers Stadium.
It was truly a game of two halves at the foot of the mountains, with Penrith very nearly clawing back from a 24-0 half-time deficit, but the Magpies held on to start their season successfully. Centre Nathan Davis was the star of the show, with a hat-trick and six goals resulting in a 24-point individual tally.
A few team changes featured in both teams; Penrith welcomed Sione Katoa and Tim Browne into their starting side in place of Wayde Egan, Paea Pua and the omitted Reed Izzard, while Wentworthville's David Gower and Andy Saunders also started, forcing Daniel Dole out of the side.
On a sunny day and in front of a big building crowd at Panthers Stadium, it was the Magpies who had the early running; fullback Anthony Layoun came close to scoring in the north-western corner, before makeshift dummy-half Eddie Aiono was driven into touch a moment later. Nevertheless, Wentworthville kept coming and soon found the tryline through Kauri Apouri. The former Wyong Roo split the defence from close range to score near the posts, with Nathan Davis adding the extras 15 minutes into the game.
It would then be Davis's turn to continue the Magpies' strong start - albeit via a Penrith error. A misjudged Liam Martin offload found the hands of opposition player Davis, who raced 60 metres to score the side's second. Just three minutes later, Davis again crossed - this time thanks to a perfectly-timed Reed Mahoney cutout ball close to the line.
With Davis slotting one of the two conversion attempts, the score was 16-0.
The Panthers' right edge was causing them significant troubles and they were unable to fix it up before the half-time break, with Aiono the next to exploit the defence. He received a pass from Zach Nicholls out wide and while the ball went to ground, Aiono was still able to beat Martin and Kaide Ellis to score. It was again converted by Davis.
When the Magpies next pressured the Panthers' line, they first forced a dropout, and then back-to-back penalties. With just one minute remaining in the opening stanza, the visitors opted for the penalty goal, Davis calmly kicking it for a 24-0 half-time lead.
Having come out of the sheds, the Panthers were desperate to recapture their 2017 form - and made their first impact through Martin. The centre powered over near to the north-eastern corner, with Panthers debutant Adam Keighran converting. Just a minute later, an unexpected kick trapped the Magpies in their own in-goal area, giving the Panthers another opportunity.
Not long after, Panthers senior man Ellis found himself on the end of a Liam Coleman short ball, making the most of it to score the side's second. Once again converted by Keighran, it reduced the deficit to 12.
The Panthers were dealt a blow with 19 minutes remaining with the departure of Oliver Clark for a suspected head injury. Still on the ascendancy, however, they managed to continue their surge. Jarome Luai came up with an impressive play to bamboozle the Magpies defence, scoring near the posts. Successfully converted, scores were 24-18.
Just three minutes later, a relatively simple play resulted in a third try for Davis, who continued his successful day on the Magpies' left edge; converting his own try, the visitors appeared to have an insurmountable 30-18 lead. In turn, however, the Panthers hit back in quick succession. An in-goal fumble from Aiono was pounced upon by Wayde Egan, who scored under the posts.
The gap was just six points with nine minutes remaining, but an offside penalty then went the way of Wentworthville - and they opted for the shot at goal. With Davis adding the extras, it took the scores to 32-24, which would remain until full-time.
Wentworthville Magpies 32 (N Davis 3, K Aupouri, E Aiono tries; N Davis 6 goals) def Penrith Panthers 24 (L Martin, K Ellis, J Luai, W Egan tries; A Keighran 4 goals)