When Liam Martin collided with a red and green wall, spun around and crashed to score the winning try in Thursday night’s Grand Final rematch, he quit the minor premiership of the modern-day Panther juggernaut.
The State of Origin back rower, who had burst onto an Apisai Koroisau ball from the dummy half, also sparked a round of applause from a crowd of rugby league greats in awe of the courage and professionalism of Penrith.
Reigning prime ministers were again without gun halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, as well as prized forward rower James Fisher-Harris.
READ MORE: Fuming Kyrgios booed after expletive tirade
READ MORE: ‘Incredible’ Latrell leaves Slater speechless
READ MORE: Kevin Sheedy’s job ‘untenable’ after explosive claim
They had also been matched against a South Sydney team on a seven-game winning streak.
Breathtaking playmakers Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker combined for a superb 36th-minute try and, when the No. 1 superstar scored a conversion nine minutes from time, the Panthers found themselves trailing for the first time in the game.
But Stephen Crichton leveled the scores with a penalty goal and Martin’s 79th-minute try sealed Penrith’s triumph, with the Panthers recovering to win on the death penalty.
Andrew Johns was among the rugby league icons on the left backboard of Nine hailing the Panthers.
“Coming here tonight, I thought Souths would roll them,” Johns said.
“The form South Sydney were in…considering the players Penrith had – what a performance.”
Billy Slater called the Panthers’ victory “an incredible victory”.
“South Sydney said last week to the rest of the competition, ‘We can win this competition. We can win the premiership this year,'” Slater added.
Shades of 2021 GF in Crichton try
“They have three of their best players tonight, the Penrith Panthers, and they come out and they put on a performance like that and they go on and win in a pressured environment like they did. I thought that was amazing performance.
“It just illustrates where their club is, where this team is.
“They are in great shape to win their second consecutive premiership.”
Stream the NRL Premiership 2022 live and for free on 9Now.
Penrith have conceded just 12 points per game in their bid for back-to-back premierships.
Ivan Cleary’s men conceded 22 points in their clash with the Rabbitohs at Sydney Olympic Park, but that didn’t stop Allana Ferguson from hailing the Panthers defence.
“Having three key men by your side, you have to come together as a team, and that’s how you can bond. You have to put your body on the line, you have to work together,” Fergusson says.
Slater stunned by Latrell’s ‘incredible’ pass
“Almost every time the Souths came through the middle, Penrith had three men in the tackle. They slowed them down, they brought fatigue into the game and they forced them to use the footy and then do their best to get out on the edges and Stop them. They are brilliant in their defense and keep showing up. There have been mistakes in their defense since tonight but they never faltered. They never left and lost trust.
The Panthers clinched their fourth minor premiership in history on Thursday night, adding to their 1991, 2003 and 2020 titles.
They meet the Warriors in Penrith next Friday night and take on the Cowboys in North Queensland the following Saturday night, before embarking on another finals campaign.
At that time, Cleary and Luai will be back to pilot the Panthers into halftime.
It’s a frightening prospect for their rivals, because even without the Blues’ Origin halves — and Fisher-Harris at No. 1 — the Panthers are a potent force.
For a daily dose of the best news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by click here!
The stories and controversies that sparked feuds involving athletes