Penrith have produced a resilient defensive performance to overcome a horror start and defeat the Broncos 33-12 at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, earning them a preliminary final date with the Eels at Allianz Stadium next weekend.
Despite finishing the regular season four spots behind Penrith it was Brisbane who brought the momentum of a four-game winning streak into the sudden death semi-final and they jumped quickly out of the blocks.
Penrith fought back to score in the final 10 minutes of the first half and lead 16-6 at half-time and showed tremendous courage in defence in the second term to hold out any thought of a Broncos comeback.
The only nervous moment for Panthers coach David Tangata-Toa was an apparent arm injury to hooker Wayde Egan late in the second half but the Penrith skipper shrugged it off to complete the game and steer his side into week three of the finals.
Egan – the hooker in the NYC Team of the Year – had sparked his side's comeback in the first half and gave them the perfect start to the second when he burrowed over from close range after just three minutes for a hefty 22-6 advantage.
As the game threatened to get away from them it took an inspirational charge from Broncos skipper Patrick Carrigan to earn his side their second try of the night, pushing past a host of Panthers to slam the ball down with 25 minutes left to play.
The fightback was short-lived however with Penrith progressing down the park and fullback Caleb Aekins grubbering into the corner for winger Jamon Wormleaton, who won the race to the ball to touch down inches inside the dead-ball line.
The Panthers put the exclamation point on a commanding victory when halfback Dean Blore reined-in one handed a Sam Martin-Savage kick that deflected off a Brisbane defender to score under the posts untouched and progress to the preliminary finals.
A mistake from Panthers winger Daine Laurie from the kick-off gave the early momentum to the Broncos and they used the territory advantage to jump out to a 6-0 lead courtesy of a try to centre Gehamat Shibasaki after just five minutes.
It took a ricochet from a Panthers kick deep inside their own half to spark Penrith into action, the kick skewing out to the right and into the arms of Laurie on the right wing. He took possession just on the Brisbane side of halfway and after he was brought down inches short of the line, centre Richie Munchow chanced his hand against four Brisbane defenders and managed to just plant the ball on the line.
Both teams struggled with their completion rates as the half continued and it took a penalty for attacking the legs of kicker Blore for Penrith to be gifted another opportunity deep in Brisbane territory.
Hooker and captain Egan played short to Brad Gaut close to the line to take the lead and five minutes before the break an unlikely lead became a commanding one, a beautifully timed pass from fullback Caleb Aekins put centre Jesse Abbott across out wide and Blore's ensuing conversion extended their advantage to 10 points.
Penrith Panthers 33 (Richie Munchow, Brad Gaut, Jesse Abbott, Wayde Egan, Jamon Wormleaton, Dean Blore tries; Blore 4 goals, Blore field goal) def. Brisbane Broncos 12(Gehamat Shibasaki, Patrick Carrigan tries; Kontoni Staggs 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium.