A defensive masterclass has seen the Brisbane Broncos hold off a gallant Panthers side 13-6 in front of over 38,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium to book a Preliminary Final with Melbourne next week.
Both sides opened Friday night's clash with plenty of enthusiasm. However, it would be the Broncos who would strike first when Ben Hunt darted from dummy-half and found Corey Oates in space. The barnstorming winger would outpace the Penrith defenders all the way to the try line to give the Broncos an early 4-0 lead after seven minutes.
Seven minutes later the Broncos posted more points after James Tamou was penalised for holding down Adam Blair. Jordan Kahu sent the penalty goal over and Brisbane held a 6-0 lead. Only moments later it was almost déjà vu for Penrith's left-edge defence when Alex Glenn scooted past Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, only to drop the ball attempting to offload it.
The game was being played at a frenetic pace before a sickening head clash saw Corey Oates forced off the field in the 21st minute. Yet, despite his absence, Brisbane continued to stand up in defence, making up for their errors by denying the Panthers on numerous occasions in the late stages of the second half.
Ultimately, a frustrated Penrith outfit would head into the sheds trailing 6-0 despite countless chances within the opposition twenty. A late leg injury to five-eighth Tyrone May would also add to Anthony Griffin's sides woes.
It only took a couple of minutes in the second half to realise that Penrith's frustrations were beginning to get to them. A string of early penalties was followed by an untimely error by Watene-Zelezniak, gifting the Broncos a chance to crush Penrith's confidence - and they did just that.
The Panthers would concede yet another soft try when James Roberts burst through the line to cross out wide with ease. Brisbane were enjoying all the momentum early in the second half, yet poor execution denied them the chance to extend their lead. Finally, after 63 minutes, the persistent Panthers finally cracked the Brisbane defence. A brilliant step from Dean Whare saw the Kiwi International find space in the middle of the field. Off the ensuing play, Bryce Cartwright would take the line on before finding a rampaging Reagan Campbell-Gillard in support, with the front-rower barging over several defenders on the way to the try line.
Any chance of a late comeback, however, was countered when Kahu slotted a field-goal in the 69th minute to give Brisbane an insurmountable lead given their inspirational defence. Penrith received a couple of late chances to pull off a miracle, yet as it had been for the whole game, Brisbane's defence proved just too good with the home side holding on for a 13-6 win.
The victory was soured by three separate concussion incidents involving Oates, Jai Arrow and Sam Thaiday. All three failed to return, making Brisbane's win even more incredible. Meanwhile, Penrith will be sweating on scans for rookie Tyrone May, who did not return in the second half after suffering what may be a cruel ACL injury, which, if true, would certainly impact his preparations for the 2018 season.
Next week, the Broncos will need to be just as strong if not stronger in defence as they battle the faultless Storm on Friday night at AAMI Park. Meanwhile, 2017 is over for Penrith, but they can certainly hold their heads high after charging into the finals off a diabolical 2-7 start to the season.