Sydney Roosters 18
Tries: Jennings, Kenny-Dowall, Pearce
Goals: Maloney 3/3
Penrith Panthers 19
Tries: Mansour, Whare 2
Goals: Soward 3/4
Field Goals: Soward
Penrith Panthers pulled off a huge Finals upset as Jamie Soward’s last minute drop goal sent them on to the Qualifying Finals with an 18-19 victory over the Minor Premiers Sydney Roosters.
With five minutes left on the clock the Roosters were 18-12 ahead and looked to be taking the first steps towards retaining their NRL Premiership title until a sensational effort from Zelezniak to keep the ball in play for a Whare try set up a grandstand finish.
The Roosters were big favourites after wrapping up back to back Minor Premierships with a victory over rivals South Sydney in the final round of the NRL however the surprise package of this year’s competition continued to upset the odds at the Allianz Stadium.
It was an even contest throughout with the biggest lead of the match being eight points when the Panthers trailed 12-4 just after half-time yet the visitors were resilient and never gave in until the final hooter.
It was an error stricken first half with completion rates low for both sides and hits coming in from all angles in an arm wrestle of a start.
It was the Panthers who crossed first though after Matt Moylan, who was brilliant throughout, attacked a bomb and raced 40 metres to set up a great platform for the visitors to work with. Soward then released Idris with a cut-out ball before the centre provided for winger Josh Mansour to add to his tally.
The Panthers then came up with an error and a penalty straight after to invite pressure from the Roosters and they hit straight back as Michael Jennings was too strong for three Panthers defenders as he barged his way over.
Maloney added a conversion to send his side into the sheds with the lead 6-4.
The Roosters came out for the second half strong and were denied a Mitchell Pearce try because of the faintest of touches from Minichiello who made his 300th NRL appearance.
It wasn’t long before they extended their lead though as Shaun Kenny-Dowall fooled Idris with an outrageous dummy before reaching out to score a converted try.
The Minor Premiers were well on top and threatened with every carry however the determined Panthers defence kept them out long enough to get a hold on the game themselves.
Dean Whare got them back within two points as a well worked sweeping move hit the centre and he stepped his way through the sliding Roosters defence to finish well.
A soft Roosters penalty handed Soward the chance to level the scores and he duly obliged with a penalty goal and the scores stood at 12 apiece.
The last 20 minutes of the game was a nervous affair and both sides were looking for a breakthrough and it was Mitchell Pearce who came up with one after 73 minutes. He shaped up for a field goal but instead stepped inside and brushed aside the Panthers defence too easy for a try.
He looked to have wrapped up the win for the Roosters and they had a chance to make the lead seven however Maloney’s missed field goal attempt proved to be crucial in the last five minutes.
Soward grubbered towards the corner where Anthony Minichiello was ushering the ball out of play but he didn’t account for the actions of Zelezniak who reached for the ball and flicked it back into play while keeping his feet off the floor for Dean Whare to pounce on. Soward’s touchline conversion set up a tense last couple of minutes.
There was a minute left on the clock when Michael Jennings came up with an error just inside his own half and gave the Panthers a chance to steal the game, and they did just that.
Matt Moylan was set for a field goal attempt but a sloppy pass meant he had to take the tackle and with the next play Soward sent over a field goal to send them into the Qualifying Finals with an 18-19 win over a stunned Roosters.
Man of the Match
Matt Moylan – the 23 year old wasn’t even in the Panthers side at the start of the year but has proved to be a crucial part of this overachieving side. His performance was outstanding and although Soward stole the headlines with his field goal, Moylan had a hand in the first two tries and was brilliant throughout.