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Panthers win Holden Cup GF thriller

Penrith's regeneration under Phil Gould and Ivan Cleary accelerated further on Sunday as the Panthers held on for a brave 42-30 win over the Warriors to claim their first Holden Cup grand final.
Panthers win Holden Cup GF thriller
by AAP

By Ben Horne

SYDNEY, Oct 6 AAP - Penrith's regeneration under Phil Gould and Ivan Cleary accelerated further on Sunday as the Panthers held on for a brave 42-30 win over the Warriors to claim their first Holden Cup grand final.

The Panthers win in the under-20s showcased brilliant talent, but more importantly resilience under pressure.

In scorching heat at ANZ Stadium, for nearly three quarters of the match, the Warriors couldn't compete with the speed and power of the Panthers, who raced away to a 34-6 lead.

But in the Holden Cup, it's never over until it's over.

And with 24 minutes left on the clock and on the back of eight consecutive penalties, the Warriors piled on four tries to get within four and set up a thrilling finish with 12 minutes left.

Penrith fullback Kieren Moss was sin-binned for a professional foul in the set before, and the Warriors appeared destined for their third Holden Cup premiership as they took all the momentum into the final 10 minutes.

Despite still being in front on the scoreboard, it was the Panthers who now needed to fight back.

The final courageous effort came from Jack Gibson medal winner James Roberts, who dashed 40 metres downfield to lay the platform for fellow centre Waqa Blake to crash over and seal the result.

Speedster Roberts proved almost untouchable in his six NRL games this season, only injury preventing him playing a full season in the top grade.

His class shone just as brightly in the National Youth League decider.

"It was tough. But the boys dug deep and got the win," he said.

Roberts was sacked by South Sydney last year for discipline breaches, but says he had no hesitation in re-signing with the Panthers for a further two seasons as he looks to cement a permanent centre position in the NRL.

"They're very supportive and they don't judge me on my past. It's just from now on and my future and I'm enjoying my time," he said.

"Hopefully it works out for the benefit of both of us and I can start round one next year and play for the season."

Roberts scored two scintillating first half tries, while winger George Jennings set the grand final tone for Roosters' brother Michael, nabbing a try and setting up another.

The Panthers fought bravely in first grade this season, finishing just one win out of the top eight with a young and inexperienced roster.

And the performance of Garth Brennan's Holden Cup team to convert a second-placed finish to a premiership, was confirmation of the club's promise.

"Garth's advancement will come over the next few years," said Panthers' general manager Phil Gould.

"He'll coach NRL for sure.

"(These players) are all pretty much on contract. There's a succession plan ... NYC is still a long way from the NRL but the kids have all the potential, our job now is to help them realise their dreams as NRL players."

The Panthers faced a heap of adversity throughout the 80 minutes, losing halfback and captain Daniel Foster after just 15 minutes to an ankle injury with the scores locked at 6-6.

Foster was later taken to hospital.

The Warriors, the most successful team in the history of NYC, were shooting for their third premiership and the ideal send-off for veteran coach John Ackland.


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