Comeback win has Panthers within whisker of top four
PENRITH has kept its top-four hopes alive with a stunning 40-31 fightback victory over Canberra.
But on an afternoon of amazing entertainment, the Raiders will have every right to be furious again after a forward pass from James Maloney to Josh Mansour put Penrith in front leading into the final seven minutes.
Maloney then capped it off with a late try sealing a crucial win that moves the Panthers to 30 competition points.
It keeps them in fifth spot and only behind fourth-placed St George Illawarra on points differential.
It was the second week in a row the Panthers have scored a stunning comeback victory following last week's get out of jail effort against Manly.
Penrith's run home is hardly what you'd call the toughest.
It starts with Gold Coast on Saturday followed by Newcastle, the Warriors and Melbourne.
Robbed in their recent loss to Cronulla that pretty much ended their finals hopes, Canberra copped another rotten call with the pass from Maloney clearly forward.
Referee Matt Cecchin was in charge of his 300th NRL game, after this week revealing he would be quitting the NRL because of the constant pressure and criticism levelled at match officials.
But while mistakes from referees are unavoidable, it against raises the debate as to why the video officials aren't allowed to rule on forward passes.
It would be horrible to see a pass as clearly forward as this decide a finals match.
The Raiders went to the break leading 26-12 after having a try put on them in the opening two minutes.
But after trailing 12-8 after 20 minutes, the Raiders hit the turbo as the right-edge of Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana swung into action.
Leilua scored the first of his side's four first half tries while Rapana capped it off in the final minute before the break.
Big Billy Kikau looked as though he was about the set up a try on the Leipana edge only for Rapana to steal the ball.
From there the flying winger danced along the sideline for the length of the field, evading the grasp of Maloney, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Nathan Cleary to give the Raiders a 14-point margin heading into the second half.
Leilua landed his hat-trick but not before Penrith set up an exciting finish.
Tries to Dean Whare and David Peachey's double pulled the margin back to 30-24 heading into the final quarter.
Sam Williams nailed a field goal to push the Raiders' lead out to seven with 13 minutes remaining. Penrith wouldn't go away.
Nathan Cleary and Peachey combined brilliantly to send Dallin Watene-Zelezniak over with 10 minutes left on the clock.
And then came the forward pass from Maloney before Mansour's try sealed the win in the dying minutes.