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Panthers primed for top-eight challenge

If Penrith manage to scrape into the NRL's top eight over the next two weeks, they certainly will have earned a spot in the finals.
Panthers primed for top-eight challenge
by AAP

By Rob Forsaith

SYDNEY, Aug 24 AAP - If Penrith manage to scrape into the NRL's top eight over the next two weeks, they certainly will have earned a spot in the finals.

The Panthers' topsy-turvy season is very much on an upswing, with last Sunday's upset away win over the Warriors followed up by an equally impressive 28-12 victory over Brisbane on Friday night.

Ivan Cleary's men moved to ninth place on the table on Friday night, but face must-win away games against top-eight sides Canterbury and Manly.

"They're two tough teams. All we can do is work hard at training and we'll have a look at the Bulldogs first and see where we can attack them," Panthers halfback Luke Walsh said.

Penrith's triumph over the Broncos was all the more meritorious due to the challenges they faced in a five-day turnaround.

"I was crook. I was really crook Monday night. All day Tuesday I was very crook," Walsh said of the stomach bug that worked its way through half the team.

"I still felt crook during the game," he added, noting the need for halftime and an on-field to be sick.

"They kept coming at us in the second half, it felt like a finals-like game."

Panthers skipper Kevin Kingston praised the resolve of his teammates, saying the hard-fought win would leave them buoyed for the final fortnight of the regular season.

"We were feeling the pinch a bit, but that's good preparation for us if we make the semis," Kingston said.

"It was a semi-final like game, it was a grinding game but that's something we've learnt this year, how to absorb that and keep our attack.

"So it gives us a lot of confidence."

The Panthers and Broncos started round 24 as two of seven sides locked in a battle for the last two top-eight spots on offer.

Brisbane finish the season with home games against Newcastle and the Bulldogs, but skipper Sam Thaiday conceded his side had a lot of work to do if they want to be in contention for finals.

"I'm very disappointed with our effort tonight. We've got a lot to learn from this game," Thaiday said, as his team attempt to avoid the ignominy of being just the second Broncos side to miss the playoffs in 21 years.




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