If any Penrith fans decided to leave Saturday’s NRL clash at Bathurst’s Carrington Park early, they were punished for their lack of commitment as the Panthers stormed home against Canberra to steal a stunning victory from the jaws of defeat.
With the Raiders leading by eight heading into the final three minutes, the bumper crowd was treated to an outrageous final 180 seconds, courtesy of some Matt Moylan magic.
Penrith’s skipper laid on two tries in the final three minutes to inspire a 24-20 victory, which pushes his side into the top eight and leaves Canberra’s season hanging in the balance.
First he put second-rower Corey Harawira-Naera away to make it a two-point game and then, in the final set of the game, produced a super offload that Wellington Cowboys product Tyrone Peachey gleefully latched onto to score the match-winner.
“We just needed to get a try and give ourselves an opportunity. I think we just needed to play a bit more simple and direct,” Moylan said after the win, saying he was always confident of his side producing a stunning comeback.
“I think we finished the game pretty well, it’s what we wanted to do but it took a long time to do it.”
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart couldn’t put the green machine’s lapse down to anything, giving the Panthers credit, and said he’s confident his side can bounce back despite now being 10th on the ladder.
The loss also means the Raiders once again leave Bathurst empty handed.
"I don't think either side gave in to the end, it's just they came back with some good football and got us," he said.
"It was there to be won, it was there to be won. Four minutes to go and nearly 10 points up, it was there to be won ... we had the opportunity to win it and we didn't.
"We'll bounce back. There's no lack of effort, there never is. All year the effort's been there, we've just got to be better."
While the Panthers finished with some razzle-dazzle, the Raiders flew out of the gates with winger Jordan Rapana scoring his 14th try of the season in the fourth minute.
The game never reached any great heights, with errors and penalties galore, but Moylan showed his class early as well with a nice show-and-go to slip through and edge his side in front.
Frustration hit boiling point on half-time, when Harawira-Naera and Raiders prop Joe Tapine exchanged slaps after the siren.
It led to an all-in melee, with the pair heading into the sheds knowing they’d spend the first minutes of the second half in the sin-bin.
Everything good the Panthers did, Moylan was involved in. He put young fullback Dylan Edwards through a half-gap, which halfback Nathan Cleary finished off.
Edwards' speed at the back was a big plus - almost as big as Moylan's shift into the halves - and he had a massive game in the No.1, running for 240 metres with a line break and a try assist.
But the Raiders fought their way into the game again, thanks to the boot of halfback Aidan Sezer.
The Green Machine scored two tries off his bombs, through nick Cotric and then Joey Leilua, before replacement hooker Kurt Baptiste sent Cotric over for his secong.
That made it 20-12 and seemingly beyond Penrith's reach, but then Moylan imposed himself, stunning Canberra and the 8,730-strong crowd too.
Saturday’s win was the Panthers’ fourth in a row, after a shocking start to the season.
“I actually said in the box, ‘If we can get a score and stop the clock, and one set (we can win)’,” Penrith coach Anthony Griffin said.
“I felt like we had points in us, going through the middle, but we just kept getting it wrong for long periods.
“It was a really tough performance. We didn’t play very well, but we just kept coming and I thought it was a tough, reliance performance.
“The players never lost any belief.”
- PENRITH PANTHERS 24 (Matt Moylan, Nathan Cleary, Corey Harawira-Naera, Tyrone Peachey tries; Cleary 4 goals) def CANBERRA RAIDERS 20 (Nick Cotric 2, Jordan Rapana, Joey Leilua tries; Jarrod Croker 2 goals)