Less than a year after leaving Dubbo to pursue his rugby league dream, Isaah Yeo has tasted premiership success after his Penrith Panthers side defeated the New Zealand Warriors in yesterday’s Holden Cup grand final.
Yeo started the match on the bench but was into the action early as a serious leg injury to captain and halfback Daniel Foster caused a reshuffle with the scores only 6-6.
With Bathurst’s Blake Hewitt moving to halfback and Holden Cup Player of the Year Bryce Cartwright at five-eighth the Panthers lost no momentum and raced away to a 22-6 lead at the break with Cartwright especially impressing with his connection on the right with speedster James Roberts, who had two tries before the break.
Former CYMS junior Yeo was strong for his side after slotting in for Cartwright on the right edge and the Panthers defence held firm against the mountainous Warriors pack in the first 40 minutes.
However, the Warriors roared back into the contest in the second 40 and with Penrith a man down after Kieran Moss’ sin-binning they ran in four answered tries to cut the lead down to only four.
But a late converted try to Waqa Blake and penalty goal from Cartwright sealed the 42-30 win as the Panthers celebrated their first ever under-20s title.
Roberts (2), Moss, George Jennings, Brendan Atwood and Mitch Clarke were the other try-scorers for the Panthers with Cartwright kicking six conversions and a penalty. Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Albert Vete Eku Malu, Metia Lisati and Viliami Lolohea crossed for the young Warriors while Mason Lino kicked five conversions.
The National Youth League premiership caps off a dream year for Yeo after forcing himself into the Panthers lineup in his first season for the club. Despite being struck down with an ankle ligament injury late in the year, the 18-year-old had the confidence of the coaches as he was rushed back in for last week’s 36-20 preliminary final win over minor-premiers the Canberra Raiders.
The win is also just another part in a memorable weekend for the Yeo family as Isaah’s cousin Anna was married in Dunedoo on Saturday.