BATHURST product Doug Hewitt has steered the Penrith Panthers to a 42-30 win in the Holden Cup under 20s grand final, despite a late fightback from the New Zealand Warriors.
The Panthers led 34-6 early in the second half, but the Warriors hit back with 24 unanswered points to get within four.
A late try for the Panthers and some mistakes from restarts from New Zealand allowed Penrith to hold on. Hewitt was heavily involved, getting his hands on the ball several times a set and producing a booming kicking game to help his team get the win.
Penrith opened the scoring after just three minutes, their outside centre James Roberts getting the ball from the scrum and running 60 metres to score.
The Panthers continued to put on the pressure and had six of the first eights sets. Hewitt was involved, almost getting over the line himself and then giving a nice inside ball, which almost set up a try.
Despite their dominance, it was the Warriors who scored next, but the Panthers bounced back and scored two long-range efforts of their own for an 18-6 lead.
Panthers number seven Daniel Foster picked up an ankle injury and Hewitt moved to halfback, and they extended their lead to 22-6 by half-time.
Penrith were first to score after the break, getting back-to-back tries to shoot to a 34-6 advantage, which left the Warriors needing five converted tries to get themselves back in the match.
They went extremely close, scoring four tries and were helped when Keiran Moss was sin-binned.
At 34-30, they looked to have the momentum, but Penrith had a chance and they scored.
The Warriors tried a short kick off, which didn't go 10 metres and soon after Penrith kicked a penalty goal.
Another kick-off that didn't go the 10 effectively ended New Zealand's chance of a win.
It was a career highlight for Hewitt as he received his premiership medal and capped an eventful season.
He left the Panthers at the end of last season to seek an opportunity with the Bulldogs, however he found himself playing Bundaberg Cup, a lower grade than he would have liked, and couldn't get a run in Holden Cup.
A string of injuries at Penrith saw them needing a halfback and they approached Hewitt with the promise of a chance at Holden Cup.
He was released by the Bulldogs and immediately set about cementing a spot at the Panthers.
His form was a major reason they were able to reach the decider.