Panthers hunt for Flegg title

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Penrith winger Thomas Lofts scores the match winner. Photo: Penrith Panthers

The Penrith Panthers will be aiming for back to back Jersey Flegg titles when they take on the Cronulla Sharks in this Sunday’s Grand Final at Leichhardt Oval.

The last time Penrith won a Jersey Flegg premiership was way back in 2007, which coincidentally was the last year the famous NSWRL competition was played before becoming the National Youth Competition (Toyota/Holden Cup) in 2008.

After the National Youth Competition was dissolved at the end of the 2017 season, the Jersey Flegg Cup made a triumphant return in 2018.

Penrith qualified for this Sunday’s showdown after defeating the minor premiership-winning Newcastle Knights last weekend at Leichhardt Oval.

After leading for most of the match, Penrith found themselves behind on the scoreboard with less than a minute remaining before full-time.

Fortunately there was one final twist in the game when the Panthers snatched victory with 40 seconds to go.

The late heroics of fullback Daine Laurie set up winger Thomas Lofts for a try in the corner to send Penrith through to this Sunday’s all-important decider against Cronulla.

Meanwhile, Penrith won’t be contesting back to back Intrust Super Premiership NSW Grand Finals after they were upset by the Newtown Jets 28-24 in last weekend’s Preliminary Final, also at Leichhardt.

Newtown led 16-12 at half-time before Penrith regained the lead early in the second half. The see-sawing game took another turn moments later when Newtown got back in front with a try of their own.

The Panthers missed numerous opportunities to regain the lead, while Newtown capitalised on all their chances to extend.

Down 28-24, Penrith had one last roll of the dice to steal victory but skipper Kaide Ellis wasn’t able to come up with the miracle play.

It was Penrith’s first taste of defeat since May, with Newtown set to play the Canterbury Bulldogs in this Sunday’s Grand Final.

In the weekend’s other big matches, St Marys will take on Wentworthville in the Ron Massey Cup decider while Campbelltown will face Guildford in the Sydney Shield Grand Final, both on Saturday afternoon.

This weekend’s games will be broadcast on Channel Nine and NSWRL.com.au.

Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.

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