Panthers stage another great escape to beat Raiders
Penrith have enhanced their position as the NRL's comeback kings by overcoming a 14-point second-half deficit to beat Canberra 40-31 in a high-scoring clash at Panthers Stadium on Sunday.
A third career hat-trick to Joseph Leilua wasn't enough as the Panthers laid on four tries in the final 21 minutes to send the visitors into the all-too-familiar territory of surrendering a lead.
The win was the sixth time Anthony Griffin's team have trailed by 10 or more points and still won during the 2018 Telstra Premiership.
In a match that had just about everything, Panthers winger Josh Mansour grabbed a questionable pass from James Maloney and sprinted down the sideline to give his side the lead with eight minutes remaining after the Panthers had chased their heels for the majority of the clash.
Maloney made sure of the win by slicing through a deflated Canberra side, who had earlier taken a seven-point lead inside the final 14 minutes thanks to a Sam Williams field goal.
The Panthers will remain in fifth spot leading into next week's clash with the Titans.
Match: Panthers v Raiders
Round 21 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium
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Earlier, the Raiders stunned the Penrith crowd as they raced to a 26-12 lead at halftime with errors and ill-discipline costing the home side.
Viliame Kikau would have been on Canberra's tip sheet, but the Fijian international set the stage for a thrilling afternoon 30 seconds into the contest when he broke through the defensive line to get the Panthers in attacking territory.
Moments later James Tamou stepped through and the Panthers had the lead.
Canberra responded with a converted try and penalty goal to take a two-point lead within eight minutes as Leilua took advantage of a quick tap from close range to dart over for his first try of the afternoon.
The Panthers took two minutes to hit back following the restart with Tyrone Peachey finding room to stroll past Leilua and Joseph Tapine.
But that was where it ended for the Panthers as Canberra hit their groove with three tries in the final 14 minutes of the opening half.
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Elliott Whitehead charged his way over on the left edge before the visitors laid on a special four-pointer with Aidan Sezer delivering a boomerang kick for Jordan Rapana out wide, who offloaded to Leilua who scored his second.
Penrith's woes before the break got worse when Kikau - who produced a mixed afternoon with penalties and errors in his game - coughed up the ball for Rapana to race the length of the field and score.
But Canberra will rue an early chance in the second half with Nic Cotric denied a four-pointer when Rapana threw a forward pass with the line beckoning.
Peachey darted over for a second try but Leilua returned serve minutes later to leave the Panthers with a job to do late – a task they took with both hands to secure the win.
News & Notes: Joseph Leilua scored his third career hat-trick and first since round 3, 2014 ... Josh Mansour left the field in the 77th minute with a facial injury ... The victory for Penrith was the side's fourth consecutive over the Raiders for the first time since 1984 ... It was the first 40-31 scoreline in Telstra Premiership history ... Crowd: 12,915.