Penrith Panthers survived a late flurry from the Brisbane Broncos to record a 18-12 success tonight at Suncorp Stadium.
The Panthers piled on 14 points in quick fashion in a 20-minute flash after half-time after a below part first half to survive the late onslaught from the Broncos after tries to Kobe Hetherington and Ethan Bullemor made for a tense finish.
Last time these two met, the Broncos were resillient before they lost by eight points and the hosts again were gallant in defeat. The first half was an arm wrestle between the two sides with the only points from the boot of Stephen Crichton and a late two-point field goal to Dylan Edwards.
Brisbane had the chance twice to draw level despite having forward Thomas Flegler binned in the first ten minutes. The Broncos showed confidence taking the tap twice, but the side running 15th were erratic and wasteful with the ball and were unable to breach the Panthers defense.
After the full-time whistle, Panthers didn't look too excited with the two points after their below par effort. Their usually slick attack ground to a halt in the first half and the closest they came was through Charlie Staines, who put his knee on the whitewash. Dylan Edwards gave his side a four-point buffer with his two-point field, for a 4-nil lead.
Panthers must've got a bake from coach Ivan Cleary at the break. They looked much more like their assured selves in the second stanza. The left side linked up in fluid fashion to put Brian To'o for his ninth of the year.
Next the right side got their due. Crichton, who has been quiet this season, provided a fabulous flick for Staines' 13th of the year. Crichton followed up with a heads up play of his own and some strength to extend the lead out to 18-nil.
The old Broncos might have folded their tent and headed home trailing against one of the Premiership favourites. Kevin Walter's side showed some grit and it was a pair of individual efforts which got them back within six. Interchange forward Kobe Hetherington kept himself chugging to make it 18-6 then Ethan Bullemor busted through some flimsy defense for a fantastic finish.
Brisbane though were unable to find a finish on plenty of their sets tonight. It showed as they chased the game, the ball either fell to the ground or to the wrong player which halted their momentum and usually led to a feeble grubber.
That will be job done for the Panthers and move onto next week. It is a mouth watering clash between the top two - Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm - to possibly decide who might lift the Minor Premiership.