Another breathless second forty from the Penrith Panthers has seen the men from the foot of the mountains claim a win after trailing at the break, downing South Sydney 18-14 at Panthers Stadium.
Nearly 16,000 fans packed into the Mulgoa Road venue despite immense heat, but they were largely silenced in the first half as South Sydney progressively outdid the Panthers. The home team were mostly cruelled at the final play, unable to convert any attacking possession into points.
By contrast, the Rabbitohs added to their tally on three occasions before halftime, rookie halfback Adam Doueihi - deputising for the injured Adam Reynolds - added a penalty goal after ten minutes, before an entertaining long-ranger got Cody Walker the first meat-pie of the afternoon.
Trailing 8-0 in the relentless heat the Panthers looked good for their first when Josh Mansour rushed to the corner but he was bundled out, and despite getting a penalty for an indiscretion in the lead-up, Penrith could do nothing with the possession. Neither side did much more until the halftime break, when Damien Cook sliced through some soft middle-defence from the hosts to get the Bunnies' second try near the sticks. Doueihi converted for a 14-0 lead at oranges.
The second half started off uninspiringly, the most notable moments of the first ten after resumption being injuries. Greg Inglis was walked off for a HIA after a head clash (he wouldn't return), and Sam McKendry had some knee concerns.
By the 53rd minute the Panthers finally cracked the Rabbitohs' defence, Trent Merrin spinning over and planting the ball above his head for the hosts' first try.
Waqa Blake pushed an unlikely comeback into potential reality with 14 minutes left, reducing the margin to two points. Both sides kept at it strongly for the ten minutes that followed, but it would be some hot potato footy from Penrith that would get the last points of the game - and the lead - when Tyrone Peachey scored on the end of a haphazard movement.
Nathan Cleary soaked up the final minute attempting a penalty goal to extend his NRL premiership goalkicking streak to 33 without missing, but in doing so pushed it wide and lost his chance to break the record set by Hazem El Masri more than a decade ago. Regardless, Penrith held on and recorded an 18-14 win that sees them two from two heading into their first away game next week.
The Panthers will find themselves at ANZ Stadium next Friday evening when they're hosted by Canterbury at 6pm, while the Rabbitohs will team up with Parramatta to host a double header at the same venue on Saturday - Souths' opponent being Manly.