Milestone man James Fisher-Harris charged over the line late to hand the Panthers an 18-16 win against the Wests Tigers at CommBank Stadium on Sunday.
On an afternoon where both clubs played for the inaugural Royce Simmons Cup, the former Panthers and Wests Tigers legend was in attendance with future Tigers coach Tim Sheens to show off the new silverware.
The new trophy appeared to be going into the hands of the joint venture after they grabbed the lead through Ken Maumalo with 12 minutes remaining before a Scott Sorensen line break late set the defending premiers up to score late.
Fisher-Harris, celebrating his 150th match in the NRL, ran onto a Mitch Kenny pass with six minutes left to get the visitors back up by two points, a margin they kept for most of the second half.
It was a scrappy, but impressive win for the Panthers given they had a host of Origin stars missing while it's another sorry tale for the Tigers in their horror season with their defensive woes on show with 10 minutes to go.
Match: Wests Tigers v Panthers
Round 18 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
Earlier, rookie winger Junior Tupou, called in for an ill David Nofoaluma, crossed first for the home side before Penrith looked comfortable with the ball to race to a 12-4 lead.
Fijian international Viliame Kikau fired early, setting up Izack Tago on the left edge before picking up a grubber beautifully to cross in the 23rd minute.
A superb solo effort from Adam Doueihi at the scrum, who looked back at home in the five-eighth jersey, narrowed the deficit before the home side were denied a try on half-time due to an offside in the lead-up.
A scrappy second half that saw completion rates crumble made for unpleasant viewing for both coaches as either side were able to take control of the game.
Fisher-Harris crashes over for the lead
- The Panthers victory ensured they went through the representative period unbeaten ahead of their title defence in the coming months.
- Panthers hooker Mitch Kenny was placed on report in the 21st minute for dangerous contact on future teammate Luke Garner.
- Panthers forwards James Fisher-Harris (150th) and Matt Eisenhuth (100th) celebrated milestone matches.
- Wests Tigers lost David Nofoaluma and James Roberts pre-game to illness.
- The Panthers rested their seven Origin representatives including star halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.
- The Tigers were denied two decisive tries through offside and obstruction while they were trailing by two points.
- The Panthers have now won nine of their past 11 games against Wests Tigers.
Play of the game
Big men aren't supposed to pick the ball up as well as Viliame Kikau has done throughout his NRL career. The Fijian star is a charge down king usually but this time it was his ability to scoop up a Sean O'Sullivan grubber from his boots to score a ripper.
Kikau with the cross-code skills
What they said
"I was actually pretty happy with it. There were clearly a lot of mistakes at the wrong time but I definitely thought we were the better team in the first half. The score probably didn't reflect our dominance. The second half we came up with errors in good field position where I thought we were going to do something. We could've easily lost the game especially with young guys. It was probably quite fitting our captain scored the winning try." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary.
"I thought the first half we were a bit off in understanding what we were trying to achieve. The second half I thought we understood how to play football and get into a process and get some second phase football and restrict how many metres their back five were making. We were disallowed two tries because of our discipline and that probably proved the difference in the end." - Wests Tigers interim coach Brett Kimmorley.
NRL Press Conference: Wests Tigers v Panthers - Round 18, 2022
The Panthers return to Penrith for round 19 with a top four battle to saviour against the Sharks. Ivan Cleary will have all his Origin troops back in an ominous sign for the rest of the competition going into the final weeks of the season.
Wests Tigers have a seven-day turnaround to prepare for an away trip to North Queensland where they'll face the Cowboys.
David Nofoaluma and James Roberts were close to playing the Panthers so you'd expect them to be available for the trip.
Tigers with the scrum set-play brilliance