It was the most pivotal try of Penrith’s season so far, in fact it arguably could be regarded as one of their most important tries in club history.
Brian To’o’s intercept try in the 40th minute of last Saturday’s epic Preliminary Final against South Sydney was an instant game changer.
With the Panthers surprisingly down 12-6 as half-time approached, To’o snatched the ball 25 metres out from his line during a Rabbitohs backline shift and managed to sprint away and score one of the best tries of the year.
The stunning four-pointer instantly put the Minor Premiers back in the game, and it ultimately saw them go on to end the Bunnies’ season.
Speaking with the Weekender on Tuesday, the try-scoring hero himself said it was the try that almost didn’t happen.
“Yeah, I was thinking I wasn’t going to make it, to be honest,” To’o said.
“Once I caught the ball I knew I wasn’t going all the way, but I was grateful to get the try in the end.”
After a tough first half that saw Penrith chasing points, To’o said he was surprised he had enough energy to race 65 metres – palming off defenders as he raced Steven Bradbury style towards the finished line.
“I actually didn’t know what was happening, all I knew was that I was blowing after the first 10 steps,” To’o admitted.
“I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best.
“I swear it was luck.”
When To’o returned to the sheds at half-time, his teammates not only showered him with praise for levelling the game, but they also had a little joke with him about his speed, or lack of it.
“They were just all laughing at me, saying ‘you weren’t going to make it, hey’. I replied, ‘I wasn’t,” To’o said.
Fortunately To’o did have enough speed and power to score, which in the end helped Penrith reach their third Grand Final in as many years.
The St Marys junior said he can’t believe he’ll be playing in his third season decider on Sunday night.
“It’s kind of weird because it hasn’t sunk in yet,” To’o said, preparing for the possibility of claiming a second Premiership ring.
“Being 24 and playing in three Grand Finals, it’s such a massive achievement and I’m really grateful for the opportunity and I’m just looking forward to the big occasion.”
While the majority of Penrith’s 17 will play in Grand Final number three this weekend, their opposition only has one player with Grand Final experience – Eels lock Ryan Matterson from his time at the Sydney Roosters.
To’o said despite Parramatta’s inexperience on the big stage, he’s expecting them to come out firing in the decider.
“They will definitely be looking to come play hard. I know this is their first Grand Final since 2009, but I know that they’ll be coming hard and be ready to play a big game against us,” he said.
“Anything can happen on game day, I guess. But it just feels like another game and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
“I’m really happy, excited and nervous at the same time.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.