Through one of the most unlikely of heroes, Penrith clinched victory from the jaws of defeat as deputy goalkicker Matt Moylan landed a stunning sideline conversion on the stroke of full-time to seal a hard-fought win over Canterbury.
Moylan showed tremendous composure as he lined up his kick from the sideline. He landed the ball over the black dot, just as the siren echoed across the stadium, to stake his claim for becoming the club's new kicker.
"Matty, he was all over it, he really wanted to do it and that's always a good sign, he was confident," Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said. "Sometimes it's hard for a second-string or third-string kicker, a lot of the guys won't do the work but he's been doing it. He wants to be a kicker and he got his opportunity today."
A minute earlier and Cleary was facing the daunting prospect of a 10-point lead counting for nothing as a determined Canterbury side appeared to have snared a rugged comeback. Despite having just a five-day turnaround, Canterbury still had enough in the tank to out-muscle Penrith by scoring three unanswered tries – only to slip at the final hurdle, allowing Kevin Naiqama to score an equalising try with the last play of the game.
The Panthers began the game with their third halves partnership in as many games after Peter Wallace was ruled out on game day due to a groin injury, paving the way for Jamie Soward to be partnered by Isaac John for the first time.
They drew first blood despite the unfamiliarity. David Simmons soared above his marker to take down Soward's bomb early in the game. Surrounded by tacklers, the winger was aware enough to offload to the onrushing Dean Whare before being tackled into touch, allowing his centre to acrobatically score the opener.
Soward and Simmons combined again as Penrith crossed for their second.The new Panthers half picked out his winger with a precise chip into the corner, giving Simmons the simple task of grounding without much pressure from a tackler.
Bulldogs youngster Drury Low broke free of his tackler to burst down the left flank and found Josh Morris with an apparent forward pass that was ignored by the referees, who were trailing in the wake of the play. Trent Hodkinson followed up to finish the move and draw the Bulldogs back into the contest, although the Panthers were aggrieved by a possible infringement in the build-up.
Penrith reverted to more industrious play in the second-half. Soward wasn't given the same freedom to roam and their backs were starved of possession as a battle among the forwards engulfed the match.
After testing Penrith's resilient defence, the Bulldogs finally broke the line when a slip pass from Josh Reynolds to Corey Thompson allowed the winger to score in the corner. Hodkinson then squared the ledger at 12-12 by converting from the sidelines, showing superb composure in spite of the raucous noise from the stands.
It was a matter of minutes before they took a deserved lead for the first time in the match. From a scrum inside 20 metres, Reynolds darted to the right and played Low into space to score.
it looked to be the nail in the coffin for the Panthers, but a needless penalty by the Dogs gave the hosts one last shot at redemption and Naiqama took full advantage.
"Not shattered, frustrated is perhaps a better word," Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said. "We had the game won and the two penalties legged them down the field 100 metres, they threw a cut-out pass, a 50-50, they scored in the corner and kicked the goal."