The Panthers of 2017 are emerging as history makers with the side set to make the Finals after a gritty 26-22 win over Canberra at GIO Stadium yesterday.
In what has been an incredible turnaround, records are tumbling at the foot of the Mountains with others under serious threat.
Only a bizarre and dramatic set of circumstances will stop Penrith playing Finals football, with the side now a realistic shot of fulfilling pre-season predictions and making the top four.
The history making season includes:
- It will be the first time Penrith have made the Finals after such a horror start to the season. They were second last after nine rounds.
- Yesterday, Nathan Cleary became the youngest player in the history of the game to score 200 points in a season. He broke Graham Eadie’s record which has stood since 1974 – 23 years before Cleary was even born.
- Victory this weekend would equal the longest winning run in the club’s history (eight matches), setting up a chance to break the record in the final round against Manly at Brookvale Oval.
- Victory this weekend will break the record for the most consecutive home wins (including the match at Carrington Park in Bathurst). For the sticklers to detail, a win would equal the most consecutive home wins specifically at Penrith Park.
- It will be the first time Penrith have played in back-to-back Finals series since the 2003-2004 seasons.
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin was proud of the way his side toughed out a win against a desperate Raiders yesterday.
“We had to win without the ball and I thought we did a good job of it,” he said.
“It was one of our best efforts under the circumstances with the penalty count and the weight of possession against us in the second half.”
Canberra needed to win to keep their Finals hopes alive and took the lead during the second half.
“At this time of year when you’re playing really quality sides like them away from home you’ve got to hold your hands up defensively and overcome a lot of obstacles,” he said.
“To be able to withstand all of that was a real credit to the boys.”
Griffin was thrilled that his side wrestled back control against a Canberra side that found momentum after half-time.
“As a football team we had a chance to win it in our own right and then we had to win it again when they surged at us,” he said.
“We’ll take a lot of confidence out of that. We put ourselves in that position but to be able to win it again was probably the take home point for me.”
A huge crowd is expected for Penrith’s final home game of the season this Sunday, with the Dragons desperate to keep their slim Finals hopes alive.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor.