Panthers rout Manly to clinch sixth
No team from outside the top four won has won the competition since the Bulldogs in 1995, but based on current from the Penrith Panthers will give it one almighty crack.
They were ruthless on Sunday night as they trounced the Sea Eagles 36-6 at Pepper Stadium to secure sixth spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder with their fifth straight win.
Playing a Sea Eagles side decimated by injury and with little to play for, it wasn't just Penrith's attack that would have pleased their coach as Anthony Griffin's men scrambled in defence to hold their opponents to just one try.
Sunday's win was made even more special with a season-high 15,411 fans coming out to support their heroes before next week's elimination final against the Bulldogs.
Panthers skipper Matt Moylan set the tone early when he forced a repeat set with a well-weighted grubber before showing off his ball-handling skills with a silky cut-out pass to send Josh Mansour over in the corner after just four minutes.
The Sea Eagles looked to have hit back in almost identical circumstances as Brayden Wiliame dived over off a lovely ball from Tom Trbojevic, only for replays to show that the winger had put a foot on the sideline.
Penrith had no such problems at the other end of the field as Moylan continued his stellar start to the match to send Bryce Cartwright through with his second assist of the evening.
The Panthers fullback could do no wrong and it was his pass that put Waqa Blake into space down the right edge before the barnstorming centre linked up with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to make it 18-0 after 25 minutes.
It quickly became a 24-point lead as Peter Wallace charged onto a ball from man-of-the-moment Moylan before Cartwright grubbered through for Mansour's second to complete a stunning first half that saw the hosts complete 20 from 20 sets.
The change of ends did little to halt Penrith's momentum as Blake bashed his way through some feeble defence to score before he almost finished off a freakish play as he chased down a kick only to lose the ball as he attempted an audacious pass.
It looked as though Manly would be held scoreless by the Panthers for the first time since 1988 until the tireless Jake Trbojevic backed up a Daly Cherry-Evans to score under the posts to finish their season on a high.
Panthers 36 (Josh Mansour 2, Bryce Cartwright, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Peter Wallace, Waqa Blake tries; Nathan Cleary 6 goals) defeated Sea Eagles 6 (Jake Trbojevic try; Matt Wright 1 goal) at Pepper Stadium. Half-time: 30-0 Panthers. Crowd: 15,411.