It may only be momentarily but as it stands, the Penrith Panthers have moved back into the top eight after a narrow 28-26 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The win looked to be a relatively comfortable one with seven minutes to go, before the Bunnies found some heart and soul and dug deep to score two late tries.
It made the game an interesting proposition late on but ultimately, the luck of the bounce eluded the Bunnies leading to the loss.
Trailing 28-14 with seven minutes to go, several of their big name players combined to get them back into the contest.
Sam Burgess, who has been criticised by Souths fans this season for his poor ball control and lack of involvement got them back onside for one week at least, after a solid performance.
A two-try outing and a relatively error-free performance from the Englishman, helped the Bunnies get back in the contest and make a fist of things.
The Bunnies started the game the better of the two as a Kyle Turner try gave them an early buffer. But after that, it was Penrith – although neither side was totally fluid in attack.
The Panthers put on some good plays of their own, often catching the Bunnies off guard either through the middle – for a try to Leilani Latu – or out wide, a try to former Bunnies player, Chris Grevsmuhl.
Penrith had an added incentive to win, with hooker Peter Wallace playing in his 200th career NRL game.
One man who stood up and performed well was Bryce Cartwright. With damaging runs, miracle offloads and solid play, he was involved in the majority of Penrith’s attacks and laid off several passes that led to tries.
With many believing that he should be picked for the third and final Origin game given NSW can no longer win the series, he did his chances to justify selection no harm.
Team-mate Josh Mansour, who also recently made his debut for the Blues, believes Cartwright should get that opportunity.
“I think he deserves a shot,” Mansour said after the game.
“He’s been enormous for us at club level.
“He’s just got that style of play that puts the opposition off. He’s got everything in the kit; he’s got a good offload, he’s a hard runner of the ball and can play in the halves as well which is a huge bonus.
The loss means the Bunnies languish in the bottom four but coach Michael Maguire has not given up hope of a finals berth.
“I only think about next week. What happens in the future, I can’t control that. What we can control is what we do this week,” he said.
“The players are putting a lot of work in but we’re not getting the rewards that all we want.
“There’s a big expectation at our team on how we play. We have got a very strong culture in the club about performing and winning games of football and that’s what we’ve got to keep striving for. This week’s going to be no different.”
Player of the Game:
3. Bryce Cartwright
2. Sam Burgess
1. Cody Walker
Panthers 28 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Josh Mansour, Leilani Latu, Nathan Cleary, Chris Grevsmuhl tries; Nathan Cleary 4 goals) defeated Rabbitohs 26 (Sam Burgess 2, Kyle Turner, Greg Inglis tries; Cody Walker 5 goals) at Pepper Stadium. Half-time: 10-8 Panthers. Crowd: 13,080.