Just missed it! A game of inches
- Author Robert Burgin
A try in the final seconds has broken a 32-all deadlock in a thrilling National Under 18 Championship Final, allowing Penrith to escape with a 38-32 win against the Souths Logan Magpies.
Just one week after the Magpies came from 16-6 down against Norths to win the Mal Meninga Cup, they rebounded from a horrifying 22-0 deficit to push the Panthers all the way at Dolphin Stadium.
Penrith scored less than 30 seconds into the match, with Souths Logan spilling a nervous pass right on their own tryline
From there, the Panthers rarely took their foot off the accelerator in a dominant first half-hour, running in three further tries.
However, Souths Logan managed to sneak in two tries of their own in the final six minutes before halftime, the first to Ezra Coulston and the second to Fanitesi Niu.
With Tanah Boyd potting a conversion from out wide, it was a much more respectable 22-12 line at the break.
For a good 20 minutes after halftime the teams went tit-for-tat exchanging tries, with Penrith consistently two tries in front.
A Dave Fifita intercept and 60 metre run, finished with two huge fends on the cover defence, played a big part in th
e Magpies clawing their way closer.
His try was followed four minutes later by another spectacular piece of athleticism by winger Junior Finau, reeling in a Boyd cross-kick and touching down while his feet were still in the air.
That made the score 32-30 and Boyd had a tough chance at a conversion against the breeze, from a similar position to where he had missed one just seconds earlier.
It appeared Bold had piloted the ball way too wide, but it swung a mile and dropped right on the crossbar, limply bouncing in for a vital two points to put the crowd in raptures.
In an unbelievable final five minutes Souths Logan managed to block out two field goal attempts by Penrith half Hayden Bonanno, jumping at full strength.
Despite it being a game of inches, the Magpies failed to set for a field goal opportunity of their own while in attacking position and the opportunity went begging.
With barely a handful of seconds left in the game, Penrith then worked their way downfield and tested the exhausted Magpies defence, with winger Zach Cini proving too nimble and fast after coming in off his wing.
Captain Shawk Blore then successfully took the final conversion of the game, taking over from usual goal-kicker Stephen Crichton, younger brother of Panthers NRL player Christian.
Penrith hooker Maurice Trindall was adjudged man of the match, narrowly shading forwards Patrick Naicori, Shawn Blore and Luke Puru.
PENRITH PANTHERS 38 (Zach Cini 2, Maurice Trindall, Chase Chapman, Matt Burton, Stephen Crichton, Ethan Clark-Wood tries; Stephen Crichton 4, Shawn Blore goals) def SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES 32 (Ezra Coulston 2, Fanitesi Niu, Vinncent Takataka, David Fifita, Junior Finau tries; Tanah Boyd 4 goals) at Dolphin Stadium.