Penrith are 80 minutes away from the NRL Grand Final after an epic 8-6 victory over arch rivals Parramatta in Mackay.
It was one of the most gritty Finals games of all-time with a Nathan Cleary penalty goal on the stroke of half-time proving the difference in the end.
Parramatta had numerous chances to claim victory in the final minutes with Penrith’s stoic defence tested to its limit in a game that tested the blood pressure levels of every Panthers fan watching at home.
The Eels scored the first try of the game when Dylan Edwards failed to diffuse a bomb, Waqa Blake picking up the crumbs to cross and open up a 6-0 lead.
Penrith hit back when Kurt Capewell pounced on a beautifully placed short kick from Cleary, levelling the scores in the 16th minute.
Cleary’s penalty goal just before the break turned out to be the final points of the game – with the 8-6 scoreline unchanged in the second half.
The Panthers appeared to have extended the lead when Brent Naden was awarded a try mid-way through the second half, but it was called back after The Bunker spotted Jarome Luai off-side.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said it was an incredibly intense tussle.
“It was a good old fashioned semi final,” he said.
“I thought it was fitting that we finished the game with a defensive stand.”
The Panthers play Melbourne next Saturday afternoon for a spot in the season decider.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.