The Penrith Panthers have been crowned the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW cup premiers after a gutsy 20-12 victory over the minor premiers in the Wyong Roos at Leichardt Oval.
Darren Nicholls the Star
Halfback and captain Darren Nicholls was absolutely superb as he lead his side to premiership glory. Nicholls was directly involved in three of the four tries and his general in field play was sublime. The classy half was awarded the Man of the Match medal at the end of the match. Nicholls joined Penrith from the Redcliffe dolphins and has been the NRL system for a number of years, although he has never made his first-grade debut. The 28-year-old has previously been in the Brisbane Broncos system where he represented the Broncos in the 2015 Auckland Nine’s and in that same season joined the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Nicholls joined the Panthers this season where he has been the star in their reserve grade side, Nicholls is a quality depth halfback and if thrown the opportunity to run out in the NRL, you wouldn’t doubt his ability.
Wyong unable to hold on
After being dominated for the majority of the half but with an unlikely lead heading into the half time break, you would have felt pretty good if you were a Wyong representative. However, after a series on unsuccessful Penrith raids where the Wyong defence held on gallantly, the Panthers struck after the half time siren after a perfectly executed chip from Darren Nicholls landed in the welcome arms of flying winger Maika Sivo who crossed for a try which really would have dented the Roos confidence. The boys from Wyong never really got themselves back in contest and one would question if the try on the bell to the Panthers was the knockout blow. They tried really hard, but the minor premiers were unable to contend with the Penrith outfit who head to the State Championship next week at ANZ Stadium to face the Intrust Super Cup champions in the PNG Hunters.
It doesn’t get any easier for the boys from Penrith who will face an emotionally charged PNG Hunters side this Sunday at ANZ Stadium for the State Championship. The Hunters won an absolute thriller at Suncorp Stadium the day before where barnstorming forward Willie Minoga pounced on a loose grubber to send the 11,000 plus at Suncorp Stadium into absolute raptures as PNG made history. Penrith are a very professional football side and know what it takes to win after a series of grinding wins throughout the season and in the playoffs especially. With Rugby League being the national sport in PNG, they have plenty of die-hard fans and they make plenty of noise, it will be a very confronting experience for the Penrith players. Expect an open and exciting game of footy as these two sides will battle it out for ultimate glory.
Back to the drawing board
Wyong have a very talented ISP side, hence their success throughout the season and it showed how far they made it. Boasting a plethora of NRL talent and the way they played throughout the season in which they only lost on one occasion, they went in to the contest as red-hot favourites but Rugby League is a funny game where anyone on their day can beat the very best. If Wyong can keep this squad together, there’s no reason why they can’t go on to win the whole competition next season. The Roos had three players (Luke Sharpe, Matt Ikuvalu and Eloni Vunakece) who all made the ISP team of the season and their coach Rip Taylor was named coach of the year. Unfortunately given their dominance in the ISP this year, they couldn’t capitalise it on the most important day of the year.
Penrith Panthers – 20
Tries: M Sivo, J Cartwright, T Santini, C Waddell
Goals: D Nicholls 2/4
Wyong Roos – 12
Tries: B Gray, J Tuivasa-Sheck
Goals: P Momirovski 1/1, Mitch Cornish 1/2