The Northern Pride are the inaugural 2014 NRL State Champions after staging a stunning second half comeback to topple hot favourites the Penrith Panthers 32-28 at ANZ Stadium today.
Seemingly down and out after falling behind 28-16, the Pride somehow found the energy to claw their way back in a stirring finish that epitomised Queensland’s fighting spirit.
Tries to Semi Tadulala and Javid Bowen – his third of the day – saw the Pride close the gap to 28-26 in front of a huge crowd on NRL grand final day.
In the 72nd minute, Northern Pride co-captain Jason Roos put the ball on the chest of back-rower Tryone McCarthy, who crashed over to the left of the posts.
Bowen booted the conversion for a four point lead, and the northerners kept their cool in a thrilling finish to score a memorable victory.
Despite the enormity of the occasion, the Northern Pride weren’t overawed in the first half. They got off to a dream start in the seventh minute when Blake Leary swooped on a Shaun Nona grubber kick.
Nona missed the simple conversion attempt, but he made amends soon after when he kicked behind the line again and this time Bowen was on the spot to score in the left corner.
The Pride were right on top until Panthers winger Eto Nabuli broke out of a tackle and found five-eighth Luke Capewell in support.
The Panthers pounced again through a Nabuli try, with Wes Naiqama adding the extras from the sideline to put the NSW Cup champions in front 12-8.
But just when the Panthers looked like pulling away, Nona pulled out a magical play when he stripped the ball in a tackle and delivered a perfect long ball to Bowen, who ran away untouched to score under the posts.
Nona’s conversion had the underdogs from Far North Queensland back in front 14-12. But their lead was short lived after flying Panthers centre Waqa Blake scored in the right corner with a stunning one-handed put down for a 16-14 scoreline.
Nona slotted a penalty goal right on the half-time buzzer to level the score at 16-16.
NORTHERN PRIDE 32 (Javid Bowen 3, Tyrone McCarthy, Semi Tadulala, Blake Leary tries; Shaun Nona 2, Javid Bowen 2 goals) def PENRITH PANTHERS 28 (Kieran Moss, Kierran Moseley, Waqa Blake, Eto Nabuli, Luke Capewell tries; Wes Naiqama 4 goals) at ANZ Stadium
Man of the match: Javid Bowen (Northern Pride)