Penrith prevail to reach premiership decider

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Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs

The Penrith Panthers will have a chance to defend their premiership title after defeating the South Sydney Rabbitohs 32-12 to confirm a place in the 2022 NRL Grand Final.

Becoming only the third team alongside the Sydney Roosters (2002-04) and Melbourne Storm (2016-18) to legitimately qualify for three consecutive Grand Finals in the NRL era, the reigning premiers will face a nervous wait with Viliame Kikau placed on report and Spencer Leniu forced from the field after a high tackle resulting in Taane Milne being sent off.

In a fierce opening which saw Izack Tago denied a four-pointer due to an obstruction, the Rabbitohs made the most of ensuing field position with Cody Walker (12th minute) pouncing on an offload from Mark Nicholls close to the goal line.

Taking advantage of another penalty after Kikau was placed on report for a shoulder charge, Latrell Mitchell timed a short pass to perfection allowing Isaiah Tass to find space and send Richie Kennar (18th minute), replacing Alex Johnston on the wing, over in the corner.

Facing a 0-12 deficit for the first this season, the Panthers managed to hold their nerve and were unlucky to have a try to Charlie Staines overturned for an obstruction midway through the half.

The Panthers were denied four points once again with Kikau ruled offside from a short line drop out, but the resolve of the reigning premiers eventually paid off with Apisai Koroisau (36th minute) managing to get the ball on the line following a terrific bust from dummy half. 

Looking set to head to the sheds trailing by a converted try, Brian To'o (40th minute) produced a Steven Bradbury-esque moment by swooping on an error from Campbell Graham and outpacing the Rabbitohs defence to level the scores at 12-all. 

Coming out for the second half without the burden of needing to chase points, the Panthers gained the ascendancy with Kikau charging down a kick from Lachlan Ilias; Nathan Cleary capitalised with an inspired grubber grounded by Leniu (45th minute) to put the hosts in front for the first time.

Dylan Edwards showcased his standing as Penrith's most valuable player this season with an inspirational kick return culminating in Tago (55th minute) running onto a grubber from Jarome Luai to swing the momentum of the match entirely in the Panthers favour.

Securing the result after Taane Milne was sent off for collecting Leniu with a swinging arm around the head, Cleary added a penalty goal to push the victors beyond two converted tries.  

Completing a night to remember with a try in the shadows of fulltime, Cleary (78th minute) kicked for himself to the delight of 50,034 supporters in attendance at Accor Stadium.

Aiming to become only the second team in the NRL era to claim back-to-back premierships, the Penrith Panthers will face the Parramatta Eels in the 2022 NRL Grand Final on Sunday evening.

Penrith Panthers 32 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 12

Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park
Crowd: 50034
Halftime Score: Penrith Panthers 12 South Sydney Rabbitohs 12 Players of the Match:
3 points - Dylan Edwards
2 points - Apisai Koroisau
1 points - Cameron Murray

Tries: Apisai Koroisau, Nathan Cleary, Brian To'o, Spencer Leniu, Izack Tago
Field Goals:
Two Point Field Goals:
Conversions: Nathan Cleary (5/5)
Penalty Goals: Nathan Cleary (1/1)

Tries: Cody Walker, Richard Kennar
Field Goals:
Two Point Field Goals:
Conversions: Latrell Mitchell (2/2)
Penalty Goals:

See how it happened in our Match Centre