A five star performance by Luke Brooks inspired Wests Tigers to a gutsy 12-8 defeat of back-to-back premiers Penrith that ended a 273-day drought since their last win.
Brooks led last season’s wooden spooners to their first win under the club’s new coaching staff of 2005 premiership winning mentor Tim Sheens, David Furner and Tigers greats Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah.
The often maligned halfback produced two 40:20 kicks that led to tries, ran the ball 10 times for 69 metres and finished with a try assist and six line breaks as the Tigers claimed the Royce Simmons Cup in wet conditions before a capacity Bathurst crowd.
Tigers captain Api Koroisau, who played in Penrith’s 2021 and 2022 grand final triumphs, also starred against his former club, while rookie fullback Jahream Bula had a game to remember.
Brooks got his team on the front foot from the outset with a 40:20 kick in the first set of tackles in the match.
Brooks then laid on the opening try of the match for Fiji playmaker Brandon Wakeham, who swooped on a perfectly weighted grubber into the Panthers in-goal from his halves partner to score in the third minute.
Former Tiger Tyrone Peachey, who returned to Penrith in the off-season, hit back for the premiers just two minutes later to score off a Jarome Luai grubber kick.
The Tigers then had to endure the sinbinning of centre Brent Naden after a shoulder charge on Panthers second-rower Zac Hosking but they did not concede a point while a man short.
Samoa World Cup hero Stephen Crichton put Penrith ahead 8-6 with a 30th minute penalty goal but Wakeham levelled the scores with a penalty goal of his own just on halftime.
Brooks started the second half as he had the first, by producing a second 40:20 kick as the Tigers continued to mount pressure on Penrith.
David Nofoaluma regained the lead for Wests Tigers when he crossed in the 50th minute after Wakeham combined with rookie fullback Jahream Bula, who threw an overhead pass for the veteran winger.
However, Wakeham was unable to convert and the Tigers were forced to cling to a four point lead.
A try saving tackle by Bula jolted the ball from the grasp of Panthers superstar Nathan Cleary and he produced a deft grubber at the other end before trapping Dylan Edwards behind his line and force a goal line drop out.
The Panthers were forced to play 10 minutes late in the game a man down after hooker Soni Luke was sin-binned for a hip drop tackle on Tigers prop Alex Twal.
Wakeham missed an attempt at goal from the penalty that would have given the Tigers a six point lead but they hung on to achieve their first win of the season.