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Match Report - Round 8 2003

One-point thriller at Penrith
www.news.com.au 3/5/2003

TWO late tries to freakish fullback Rhys Wesser helped Penrith snatch a heart-stopping win over Manly in tonight's NRL match at Penrith Football Stadium.

Manly five-eighth Ben Walker had the chance after the siren to win the match for the Sea Eagles after winger Luke MacDougall had crossed in the left-hand corner with 34 seconds left on the clock.

But Walker hooked his shot about a metre left of the posts, handing the Panthers their third straight win.

The Panthers looked down and out after squandering an 18-2 halftime lead before Wesser - the premiership's leading tryscorer - and five-eighth Preston Campbell combined to bring them back to life.

Trailing 24-18 with quarter of an hour left on the clock, Penrith captain Craig Gower stood in a tackle long enough to offload to Campbell.

The league's 2001 player of the year straightened and produced a big step off his right foot to slice through the defence and - to the home crowd's delight - find Wesser free on his inside.

The fullback ambled 20 metres to score under the sticks.

Campbell's conversion locked the game up at 24-all before Manly grabbed a one-point lead through a field goal to halfback Jason Ferris in the 70th minute.

But Wesser, determined to have the final say before a bumper crowd of 19,676 fans, beat four defenders in a desperate 10 metre run to restore the Panthers' lead and Campbell added the conversion to make it 30-25.

Walker's late miss from MacDougall's late try sealed the win for Penrith, who have reached the top eight for the first time since reaching the 2000 finals.

Solomon Haumono started the Manly revival after halftime when he reeled in a kick from Walker to touch down in the 43rd minute.

Walker slotted the conversion to reduce Penrith's lead to 18-8 before Albert Torrens, a late replacement for injured centre Kevin McGuinness (back), squeezed his way over in the right corner four minutes later.

Suddenly, the Panthers were in a contest.

The situation became desperate for Penrith in the 54th minute when Ferris dummied and crashed over and Walker levelled the scores with another conversion.

The Eagles grabbed the outright lead three minutes later when winger John Hopoate pounced on a grubber kick into the in-goal from hooker Chad Randall and Walker again added the extras from out wide.

But Wesser's 11th and 12th tries of the year sealed the deal for Penrith.

PENRITH 30 (R Wesser 2 J Galuvao L Lewis L Priddis tries P Campbell 5 goals) bt

MANLY 29 (S Haumono A Torrens J Ferris J Hopoate L MacDougall tries B Walker 4 goals J Ferris field goal)

at Penrith Football Stadium.

Referee: S Hampstead.

Crowd: 19,676.

TEAM:

Brendon Reeves, Scott Donald, Kevin McGuinness, Ben MacDougall, John Hopoate, Ben Walker, Jason Ferris, Jason King, Chad Randall, Nathan Long, Tony Jensen, Anthony Watmough, Steve Menzies (c). Interchange: Aaron Cannings, Solomon Haumono, Luke Williamson, Luke Dorn, Mark Shipway.