Penrith unleashed the first upheaval of the NRL season, crashing home to defeat the incumbent premiers the Sydney Roosters 20-14.
The Roosters were ahead 12-0 ahead and went up six points with a 17-minute lead on Saturday night when Stephen Crichton made a stand in the grandstand with a test of his first touch.
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Playing only in the fifth game of his career, Crichton had just taken the field for full-back Caleb Aekins when Josh Mansour found space on the left edge.
But the nineteen-year-old made an immediate impact by holding on to Mansour’s football on the pitch to ignite the crowd at the 10,160 Panthers Stadium.
Crichton’s injection proved to be the turning point, with Nathan Cleary running in line and unloading for Viliame Kikau to give command to the panthers.
Kikau had previously frightened Penrith fans when he left the pitch with what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury, only to return in the second half.
The Gauls had the late opportunity to steal an opening win of the season, however the home team held their first loss since the 25th round last year by the hand.
Already without rested captain Boyd Cordner, the Gauls also lost Angus Crichton before the game due to a chest infection.
But it didn’t matter when visitors flew in sixth gear, opening with a penalty goal in the second minute before Mitchell Aubusson crossed shortly after.
By recording 19 of the first 23 games of the game, only a slightly forward pass by James Tedesco prevented them from advancing further five minutes later.
An outbreak loomed when Sio Siua Taukeiaho pounced on a grubber in the 20 ‘minute, but the Panthers halved the deficit at the break with an attempt by Brent Naden.
Both teams exchanged penalty goals in the second half, but it was until Crichton’s end-of-game heroism that the home team had a breath of victory.
The loss to the Gauls was further acidic by a concussion in Matt Ikuvalu, while Sitili Tupouniua went late due to a suspected knee injury.
PENRITH 20 (S Crichton V Kikau B Naden test N Cleary 4 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 14 (M Aubusson S Taukeiaho tries the K Flanagan 3 goal) at Panthers Stadium. Referee: Chris Butler, Adam Gee. Crowd: 10,160.
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