Panthers save their best 'til
last

The Penrith Panthers have put together a tremendous display of wet weather footy to defeat the Roosters 18-6 at Telstra Stadium and claim the 2003 NRL Premiership.

Playing in front of 81,000 people, the Panthers withstood a second half revival from the Roosters to score two late tries and win their second grand final.

The first half saw both sides hammering each other in defence but it was the Panthers who scored first through winger Luke Rooney following a Luke Priddis break from half way.

At half time and with a slight advantage up the middle, Penrith were hanging onto a 6-0 lead.

Not to be outdone, the Roosters struck back in the second half with a try to Shannon Hegarty and the Panthers defence looked to be getting stretched beyond breaking point. The Panthers situation worsened when Ryan Girdler was forced limping from the field in the 60th minute.

But in the 65th minute, Panthers hooker Luke Priddis scored an inspirational solo try and delivered what would be a knock-out blow to the Roosters.

Eight minutes later, Priddis was on hand again to set up Luke Rooney who crossed for his double, putting the match beyond doubt.

Preston Campbell then slotted the sideline conversion to send the large Panthers contingent wild - the 2003 grand final trophy was heading to the mountains for the first time since 1991.

PANTHERS 18 Tries: Rooney 2, Priddis Goals: Girdler 1/1, Campbell 2/2 defeated ROOSTERS 6 Tries: Hegarty Goals: Fitzgibbon 1/1

Sunday 5 Oct 2003 7:00 PM Telstra Stadium Referee: Bill Harrigan Video Referee: Phil Cooley Crowd: 81,166

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - L Priddis (Panthers) 2 - S Sattler (Panthers) 1 - C Fitzgibbon (Roosters)

By the clock: 0 min: 80,000 people have packed into Telstra Stadium for the 2003 Grand Final. Pre-match entertainment all but done with... the real stuff starts soon!

Brad Fittler for the Roosters kicks off!

Rainy conditions - drizzle falling.

5 min: No score as yet. Strong start from both sides and some heavy defence.

10 min: Still no score and both sides still hammering each other.

15 min: Still 0-0. The Panthers seem to be gaining some ascendancy with 57% possession. Both sides achieving 9/9 completions.

20 min: Still evens. Roosters attack after a Panthers drop out. Panthers survive a some sustained raids from the Roosters who got repeat sets at the Panthers line.

25 min: Still no score. Panthers get a roll-on only to see a wayward pass intercepted by Michael Crocker (Roosters). Panthers attack again and get a repeat set. Roosters forced to line drop out and are under the hammer. Next set sees the ball kicked dead and Easts survive. Rain coming down...

31 min: TRY - Panthers. Luke Rooney scores 15m in from touch. Follows a break up the middle of the ruck from Luke Priddis from halfway. Conversion Ryan Girdler successful. Panthers 6-0

35 min: NEWS - Played stopped as Craig Gower (Panthers) goes down injured with an eye injury. After a brief stoppage, he is able to continue.

40 min: HALF TIME - Great first half with both sides having their chances. Panthers winning the battle up the middle but there's some way to go. Possession slightly favour Panthers 51% Completions: Roosters 20/22; Panthers 19/24 Tackles: Roosters 207; Panthers 170 Half Time Score: Panthers 6 - Roosters 0

Ryan Girdler kicks off for the Panthers and the second half is underway... Rain continues to fall.

47 min: TRY - Roosters. Shannon Hegarty crosses 15m in from touch after sustained pressure with both sides having trouble holding onto the ball. Conversion Craig Fitzgibbon successful after hitting the upright. 6-all.

60 min: NEWS - Girdler (Panthers) forced from the field with a what looks like a fractured leg. Panthers under all sorts of pressure. Highlight: Backrower, Scott Sattler (Panthers) pulls off a classic copybook covering tackle to send a flying Roosters winger, Todd Byrne into touch - a try saver.

65 min: TRY - Panthers. Priddis crashes over next to the posts. A tremendous reply from Penrith who were being smashed earlier in the second half. Conversion Preston Campbell is successful. Panthers 12-6

70 min: Panthers survive another Roosters raid as the ball is spilled again in the slippery conditions. Panthers thinking field goals.

73 min: TRY - Panthers. Luke Rooney gets a double, scoring in the corner. Priddis seeing that the defence is up and expecting a field goal, sends the ball wide to an unmarked Rooney who scores what looks like the match winner. Conversion from wide and in the rain from Campbell is a ripper. Panthers 18-6

80 min: FULL TIME: Panthers have won the 2003 NRL Grand Final defeating the Roosters 18-6. Possession: Panthers 53% Completions: Roosters 31/45; Panthers 34/47 Tackles: Roosters 394; Panthers 305 Penalties: Panthers 2-1

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