The Penrith Panthers have beaten the South Sydney Rabbitohs 14-12 to win the 2021 NRL grand final at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
In a match that was toughly fought right down to the wire, it was Samoan born Stephen Crichton’s vital intercept try off a Cody Walker pass that was the difference Penrith Panthers their first NRL premiership win since 2003.
The Panthers halves pairing Nathan Cleary and Samoan International Jarome Luai came out firing on all cylinders.
Cleary and Luai controlled the first 20 minutes of the game and their kicking game put the Rabbitohs under immense pressure.
Eventually, Wayne Bennett’s men couldn’t handle the relentless attack as the Panthers turned pressure into points with Matt Burton going over for the first try of the match in the 17th minute.
Luai made a bold last tackle call to run a shift left rather than kick, then sent a bullet pass to Matt Burton, giving him acres of space to go over the tryline.
With Cleary and Luai running the grand final up to this point, it was the Dally M Five-Eight of the Year, Cody Walker who stepped up to the plate to bring life back to the Rabbitohs.
Off the back of a penalty, Walker beat one Panthers defender with speed, then put Nathan Cleary on his back with a fend and finished it off with a deadly left foot step to beat the fullback and under the post he went.
Only a penalty could seperate the two sides at halftime with the Panthers leading 8-6.
The second half was evenly fought. Back and forth both teams went with the only points coming via an Adam Reynolds penalty.
With the game tied 8-8 at ten minutes to go it was cometh the hour, cometh the man and it was Crichton who again provided the game changing play.
The Rabbitohs looked hot on attack when they had a 3 on 2 advantage down the left hand side. Then first-half hero Cody Walker sent a skip ball across to winger Alex Johnston but Stephen Crichton, nicknamed “Critta” by his team mates, read the play like a book, latching on to it and raced to the tryline to put the Panthers ahead by six.
A late try to Alex Johnston gave Adam Reynolds a chance to tie up the footy game with only 4 minutes to go.
But Reynolds, who is leaving Rabbitohs to join the Broncos next year, could not convert Johnston’s try.
With 40 seconds left on the clock Wayne Bennett’s men put themselves in a position to tie the match up with a 2 point field goal.
The ball went to Reynolds but again, he could not take advantage of the opportunity and the celebrations started for Penrith Panthers.
Penrith held on for the two-point victory, with superstar halfback Nathan Cleary winning the Cluve Churchill Medal as his side avenged last year’s grand final loss to the Storm.
To top off the victory, Samoa’s Brian To’o got down on one knee to surprise the beautiful Ms Sala Moesha Crichton-Ropati with a fairytale marriage proposal.
Of course she said, yes. You can watch the proposal here.