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Penrith Panthers of 2020 are better than the 2003 premiers, Luke Lewis says


When Penrith won its eighth straight game at the weekend, equalling the record from the 2003 premiership team, the comparisons were bound to happen, and they’re definitely fair.

Speaking as someone who played in that grand final-winning side, the similarities don’t end at the impressive winning rate, they’re all over the park.

Back then we had Craig Gower – a dominant halfback who hit hard in defence, could lead a team around the field and was in prime position for the Dally M Medal. The award ceremony didn’t happen that season, but this year, Nathan Cleary is a good chance of making up for that.

His halves partner Jarome Luai has a very similar attacking flair to Preston Campbell, and Api Koroisau controls the ruck like Luke Priddis did.

Even looking at the centres, Stephen Crichton is only 19 years old but he’s got the speed, skill and footwork to match the likes of Paul Whatuira.

And the big men are almost identical to that dominant 2003 pack.

Isaah Yeo reminds me so much of our lock Scotty Sattler; an unsung hero who does all the hard work up the middle, ties up loose ends and comes up with huge plays that don’t necessarily get noticed, until they happen when your team needs them the most.

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The way back-rowers Liam Martin and particularly Viliame Kikau run through and over defenders is very similar to what Joe Galuvao and Tony Puletua did 17 years ago.

Then you go to the front row, with James Tamou and James Fisher-Harris. They’re very similar to Joel Clinton and Marty Lang, just unbelievably good at getting the team on the front foot and moving them down the field.

A Penrith Panthers NRL player makes a hit-up as he is tackled by a Canberra Raiders opponent.
There is a bit of Joe Galuvao and Tony Puletua about the way Viliame Kikau sends defenders flying.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

One of the few ways this team is really different to ours is in the back three.

Caleb Aikens is playing really well at fullback and crucially doing what’s asked of him, not overplaying his hand, but isn’t quite in the same league as Rhys Wesser was during that premiership run. Meanwhile, guys like Charlie Staines, Josh Mansour and Brent Naden are a lot better than what I was out on the wing.

When me and Luke Rooney were playing, it was all about holding our shape and being ready for a downtown or cross-field kick to score some points. But now these young kids, they’ve got a totally different way to attack that tryline. Half of these guys score their tries with 90 per cent of their bodies over the sideline.

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I don’t know how they do it, they’re just machines.

Defence and youth sets this side apart

This year’s side has attack all over the field, and so did we.

We were known for scoring points. Our approach was that if one team scored 20, we’d just score 30.

But the Panthers at the moment, they can create opportunities at any time, plus it’s backed up by their defence.

Gold Coast Titans' Anthony Don is hit hard in a tackle by Penrith Panthers. It is raining.
The Panthers have scored the third-most points this season and conceded the fourth-fewest.(AAP: Darren England)

Our defence was always questioned during the year, but the 2020 team hasn’t let in any points in the first 20 minutes of a game since round one.

It’s been mind-blowing to watch. They’ve just got every box ticked at the moment.

Not only that, but this team’s even younger than we were in 2003.

Five Panthers players celebrate together with high-fives and pats on the head
Looking at the 2019 team, there are more than a few similarities to the champions of 2003.(AAP Image: Dan Himbrechts)

Lang, Sattler and Ryan Girdler were all in the last couple of years of their careers when we won that premiership.

This time around, the only regular starters 30 or over are Mansour and Tamou, with guys like Cleary, Kikau, Crichton, Dylan Edwards and Brian To’o all 25 or under.

If they can keep this side together for two or three years under the salary cap, they’ve got a lot of success going their way because this side can do anything.

The biggest problem is when you win a grand final and you’ve got players that are playing the way the Panthers’ stars are playing at the moment, there’s demands to go to other clubs and their value goes up immensely.

Who can stop them?

The Panthers are alone at the top of the ladder, but they’re only one point ahead of the Storm and Eels. Plus you can never count out the Roosters because they always come good when it matters.

The Storm are probably playing the best footy of those challengers at the moment, but the Eels are finding ways to win ugly even though they’re in a bit of a flat patch after their 5-0 start, which included a win over Penrith.

I’d love to see a Parramatta-Penrith grand final. The battle of the west would make for a pretty special grand final.

If it wasn’t that, I’d love to see a Penrith-Newcastle grand final. Just to see a couple of sides with passionate fan bases that haven’t been there for a long time would be awesome.

The only downside for all of this for the Panthers is that their best season for who knows how long is coming during the COVID restrictions.

Ryan Girdler is surrounded by fans at Penrith Panthers training before the 2003 NRL grand final.
This year’s Panthers almost certainly won’t have this sort of experience even if they do make the grand final.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

If they do win the grand final and it’s at the Olympic stadium, I think there’d be 10,000 people, so they won’t get to experience that crowd that you expect to experience on grand final day.

In 2003 when we were playing our best footy, winning games and sitting at the top of the competition, they had to close the gates at Penrith Stadium and put big screens outside, and I know that would be happening again right now.

There would be fans hanging from the rafters at the moment, which would be an amazing feeling for these young kids to get, especially because so many of them are local juniors.

That’s the only reason that I feel slightly sorry for those boys, because we got to experience that in 2003 and I know these guys would feel that support too if we weren’t going through these crazy times.

Regardless, with this week’s game against the Warriors, Penrith has a chance to break our record with a ninth straight win on Friday. Good luck to them. They’ve earned it.

Luke Lewis was speaking to ABC News Digital’s Jon Healy.



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Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary fined $20,000 for NRL referee criticism



Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has been fined $20,000 by the NRL for questioning the integrity of referees after the Panthers’ win over Canberra on Saturday.

Cleary said he felt like the referees “managed” the Raiders back into the game after the table-topping Panthers scored four unanswered tries early in the match, before the Raiders hit back with two in the second half.

Despite winning 28-12, Cleary was unimpressed by the match officials.

“It felt like they were being managed back into the game,” Cleary said.

“That’s all I can say. Some really strange calls.”

Australian Rugby League commissioner Peter V’landys described Cleary’s comments as “deplorable” to AAP and promised a “financial deterrent”.

“You can’t question people’s integrity, no matter what,” he said.

“This was straight to the integrity of the referee. To say he managed it to bring the other team in is deplorable.

“If anyone thinks the NRL is going to tolerate their employees being abused like that, they’ve got something coming.”

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said he was “disappointed” in Cleary.

“Our leaders should be professional and set the standard for our game. Comments like this will not be tolerated. The foundation of our competition is its integrity and Ivan’s comments undermined that,” Abdo said.

“At times our officials, like players, will make errors during games. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on those individual decisions, but we will not accept the integrity of our officials being questioned.

“Every Monday, we live stream a football briefing explaining every contentious decision. Our officiating is as open and transparent as it can possibly be.”



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Panthers destroy Manly 42-12 as Canberra Raiders and Sydney Roosters score NRL wins


Penrith made sure it will finish round 12 on top of the NRL ladder following a comprehensive 42-12 defeat of Manly at Brookvale Oval.

Earlier on Saturday, Canberra showed its class to sneak home with a 14-12 win over North Queensland, while the Sydney Roosters survived an almighty scare from Gold Coast to escape with an 18-12 triumph.

The Panthers skipped three points clear of Melbourne and Parramatta on the ladder, although the Storm and Eels will play their respective round-12 fixtures on Sunday.

Charlie Staines, playing just his second NRL match, scored two tries in 25 action-filled minutes before limping off the field with a hamstring injury.

Nathan Cleary also put on a masterclass, setting up two tries and scoring one of his own in the second half when he regathered his own grubber.

But Staines was the main attraction.

He became the first man since South Sydney’s Don Manson in 1937 to score six tries in his first two matches.

In the time since his four tries on debut last month, the winger has spent two weeks in quarantine after having too many visitors in his home and then visiting Nepean Hospital with lockjaw.

But while Penrith shot out of the blocks to a 22-0 lead after 30 minutes, it was an absolute horror show for Manly.

Dylan Walker left the field with a foot injury just 10 minutes into his return from an issue higher up in the same foot, while Curtis Sironen hurt his knee and Brad Parker suffered a concussion.

The loss drops the Sea Eagles back out of the top eight and with a crucial few weeks ahead before Tom Trbojevic’s planned return in three matches.

Meanwhile, the performance was one of the best of Penrith’s season, with the Panthers completing at 91 per cent and playing expansive football.

Staines opened the scoring when he got the ball down in a tight space on the right edge in the 10th minute, then Cleary gifted him with a perfect lofted ball for his second.

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Cleary kicked a 40-20 before another try before one of his grubbers rebounded into Penrith hands and Viliame Kikau put on an offload for Stephen Crichton to score.

Isaah Yeo, Api Koroisau and Brent Naden also claimed tries in the demolition job.

Cherry-Evans was clearly Manly’s best.

He put Jake Trbojevic over with an inside ball for their only first-half try and kicked for Jorge Taufua for one in the second.

He also somehow held Kikau up to save one and stopped another when he chased down Naden after running 80 metres from a Lachlan Croker intercept.

Raiders hang tough to win up north

It was far from the Raiders’ best performance but they did enough to edge a willing Cowboys outfit, with both teams scoring two tries in Townsville.

The Cowboys threw everything at their opponents but too often let themselves down with their kicking options.

Gunning for their third successive victory, the Raiders looked as if they were suffering jet lag early on after their long match-day flight to Canberra.

They were caught out just two minutes into the match when North Queensland hooker Reece Robson dashed over the line from dummy half.

The Raiders found their groove to level in the 18th minute when half-back George Williams started and finished a 70-metre try, helped by a big charge and fend by winger Nick Cotric.

A 35th-minute penalty strike by captain Jarrod Croker allowed his team to take an 8-6 lead to half-time.

A North Queensland NRL player is tackled by three Canberra Raiders opponents.
Cowboys forward Jordan McLean tries to find a way through the Raiders defence.(AAP: Cameron Laird)

Canberra prop Josh Papalii was both hero and villain within two minutes, stripping the ball but then being placed on report for a forearm to the head of the Cowboys’ teenage full-back Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.

Cowboys skipper Jason Taumalolo steamed to the try line to put his side up but it was short-lived with the Raiders hitting back four minutes later.

England international John Bateman, playing his first match of the year after two rounds of shoulder surgery, found Curtis Scott, who fended off winger Murray Taulagi to score.

Sharpshooter Croker then showed his value, nailing the conversion from the sideline to put his side ahead again.

The final 12 minutes saw four captains’ challenges, with the Cowboys correct with both but they couldn’t find the points for a win or to take the match into golden point.

Roosters deny gutsy Titans

In an action-packed match laced with drama at the sCG, the Roosters overcame their crippling injury toll to preserve their place in the top four thanks largely to the heroics of classy centre Joseph Manu.

Already missing eight players from their 2019 grand final-winning outfit and with superstar signing Sonny Bill Williams holed up in quarantine, the Roosters lost try-scoring ace Josh Morris to a calf strain before this afternoon’s kick-off.

Fortunately the back-to-back premiers had Manu, whose leaping 58th-minute try and miracle first-half try saver on Phillip Sami saved the Roosters embarrassment.

The Titans could have bagged four first-half tries but had to settle for only one after blowing two and seeing Manu pull off his incredible rescue act before the break.

Jamal Fogarty was also denied a try in just the second minute, the half-back touching down only for the bunker to rule Titans teammate Brian Kelly had passed him the ball off the ground.

A Sydney Roosters NRL player tackles a Gold Coast Titans opponent holding the ball around the chest area.
Roosters hooker Jake Friend (left) tries to bring down Gold Coast lock Jai Arrow.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

But there was no denying Anthony Don eight minutes later when the prolific winger started and finished his own 75-metre effort.

After scrambling for much of the half, somehow the Roosters went to the break with a 10-6 advantage after half-back Kyle Flanagan added two penalties to his conversion of Mitch Aubusson’s try.

The Titans were reduced to 12 men for a second time in the match when Keegan Hipgrave was sin-binned for taking out Lindsay Collins.

The Roosters’ claims for a penalty try were denied but Flanagan’s two points made it 12-6 before Manu soared high to reel in Luke Keary’s cross-field bomb.

That appeared to seal the deal before Sami crossed with five minutes remaining to give Roosters fans a tense finish.

AAP/ABC



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Penrith Panthers beat Gold Coast Titans to take top spot back, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs upset Newcastle Knights


A contentious second-half try has helped an injury-hit Penrith to hold out Gold Coast 22-14 in the wet and regain top spot on the NRL ladder.

The Panthers were kept honest on Sunday by a gritty Titans but the visitors sealed the scrappy clash when Malakai Watene-Zelezniak crossed in the 61st minute, scoring off what appeared to be a forward pass from Brent Naden.

Buoyed by the poaching of Brisbane back-rower David Fifita on a lucrative three-year deal from 2021, the third-last Titans punched above their weight in front of 5,095 fans but still could not land a knockout blow on a depleted Panthers.

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Penrith fielded the most-inexperienced team in the competition this weekend, their 17 boasting just 968 games after losing Dylan Edwards (hamstring), Api Koroisau (elbow), Dean Whare (leg) and star Viliame Kikau (calf).

However, they dug deep to clinch their sixth-straight win and move to their best season start after 11 games.

Penrith ignored their horror form in Queensland to move to a 9-1-1 (win-draw-loss record), improving on their previous best of eight wins from the first 11 games in five previous seasons (1989, 1991, 2003, 2004, 2018).

Remarkably, the Panthers registered only their eighth win in 26 games in Queensland since 2010.

Penrith clung on to a 16-14 halftime lead after a fightback from the hosts which included two tries in the stanza’s final three minutes.

Bulldogs pull off major upset against Knights

Canterbury has staged one of the upsets of the NRL season, holding off a late comeback from an injury-hit Newcastle to prevail 18-12 in the wet.

Knights duo Andrew McCullough (hamstring) and Connor Watson (Achilles tendon) were chaired from the field on Sunday afternoon after suffering possible season-ending injuries.

Kalyn Ponga grimaces as two people wearing blue and white shirts hit him with their arms
Kalyn Ponga came to life in the second half.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

Newcastle struggled to overcome the loss of both players, while also committing too many errors in the driving rain.

The last-placed Bulldogs had no such issues with the heavy conditions, completing at more than 90 per cent to claim just their second win of the season.

The victory comes just days after the appointment of incoming coach Trent Barrett, who will take plenty of positives out of their no-frills performance.

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Veteran front-rower Aiden Tolman was among Canterbury’s best, carting the ball up for a team-high 181 metres and also adding a crucial first-half try.

Hooker Jeremy Marshall-King tallied a game-high 50 tackles and set up a try for Raymond Faitala-Mariner in the second half.

Canterbury took advantage of a Newcastle side who struggled to hold possession, surging out to a three-try lead after Jake Averillo’s scored in the 49th minute.

The Knights finally found some footing when Hymel Hunt made the most of a Tautau Moga offload to reduce the deficit to 12 points.

The 3,521 souls who braved the conditions were treated to a thrilling finish when Sione Mata’utia slid over with 10 minutes left in the contest.

But the Bulldogs held off a series of attacking waves on their own tryline in the final 20 minutes to earn their first win since round four.

AAP



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Penrith Panthers beat Cronulla Sharks 56-24, Broncos beat Bulldogs in battle of cellar-dwellers


Penrith has unearthed another star of the future in Charlie Staines, with the debutant scoring four tries in the Panthers 56-24 NRL demolition of Cronulla.

Playing for injured Dean Whare, the 19-year-old also added a try assist for good measure to spark the Panthers to their biggest win of the season.

Ivan Cleary’s side temporarily jump over Parramatta to top spot, with the Eels a chance of reclaiming pole position on Sunday when they face Newcastle.

The Sharks’ lopsided defeat not only snaps a three-game winning streak, but is also the heaviest under second-year coach John Morris.

The Panthers ran in a mammoth 10 tries, including two to another rookie in centre Stephen Crichton, while Nathan Cleary kicked seven goals.

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The signs were ominous for Cronulla the moment Penrith centre Brent Naden strolled over in just the fourth minute.

Liam Martin and Crichton crossed for soft tries soon after, before Staines flashed his potential on back-to-back possessions.

The Forbes’ product pointed straight at his home-town fans in the northwest corner of the ground when he claimed his maiden try in the 24th minute.

But that was just a preview of his next contribution, bursting down the right touchline on the return set and sending Dylan Edwards to score.

When Crichton crossed, the Panthers were racing the clock at 26-0, off the back of a dominant 76 per cent possession rate and a whopping 19-7 advantage in sets.

Cronulla eventually found its bearings late in the half, with Briton Nikora and Blayke Brailey reducing the deficit to 14 points at the break.

Staines ensured there was no second-half comeback when he scored off a Naden tapback, sending his mates, who had moved corners, into a frenzy.

Not even the sin-binning of James Tamou could halt the Panthers’ attack, with Billy Burns crossing despite being down to 12 men.

Jesse Ramien and Nene Macdonald, in his first match for the Sharks, added some respectability to the scoreline, before Staines completed his quadruple.

Compounding the loss for the Sharks is a suspected hamstring injury to Andrew Fifita, who failed to take the field in the second half.

Broncos beat Bulldogs in battle of the cellar-dwellers

A knee injury to captain Alex Glenn has soured Brisbane’s drought-breaking 26-8 NRL win over last-placed Canterbury.

It wasn’t pretty on Saturday evening but the Broncos finally snapped their six-game losing streak, notching their first win since March 20 and ending an agonising 113-day wait for long-suffering fans.

A number of Broncos players converge in celebration as a Bulldogs player looks disappointed in the foreground
The Broncos claimed a much-needed win over fellow strugglers in the Bulldogs.(AAP: Dan Peled)

Motivated by the thought that yet another loss would relegate them to last on the table, the Broncos did enough in a clanger-fuelled clash in front of 7,134 fans.

Glenn limped off in the 54th minute with a suspected medial ligament injury after an ugly tackle by Bulldogs centre Reimis Smith.

He was placed on report for a cannonball tackle after spearing into the former Kiwi international’s leg as the third man in.

In a match, billed as a battle for the wooden spoon, Brisbane — sitting 15th on the ladder — took on the bottom-placed Bulldogs and it showed in an error-riddled affair.

At times, the teams didn’t look like they knew how to play, let alone win, with the clash sometimes farcical due to the amount of dropped ball.

There were 24 errors with Brisbane committing 13.

In the end, inspirational prop Tevita Pangai and five-eighth Anthony Milford’s kicking game proved the difference as the Bulldogs suffered their fifth-straight loss.

AAP



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Brisbane Broncos lose to Warriors 26-16 for sixth straight NRL defeat, Panthers and Sharks post wins


Several Brisbane Broncos players were left in tears after the club slumped to a sixth straight defeat, this time a 26-16 loss to the Warriors in Gosford.

The emotional toll of losing yet another match was clear to see among Broncos players following the full-time siren at Central Coast Stadium.

It follows the revelation from Broncos captain Alex Glenn earlier in the week that some of his teammates had received death threats on social media.

Glenn and half-back Brodie Croft were among the Broncos players visibly upset after full-time, with the club now having failed to win a match since the NRL restarted in late May.

“It hurts,” Glenn said.

“I just got overwhelmed out there. Sometimes we get upset. It’s been a tough couple of weeks because we know the effort we’re putting into training.

“It’s just little areas in our games where we’re lacking discipline. I just care for this club and care for the team so much and the emotions come out unfortunately.

A Brisbane Broncos NRL player speaks to the media after a match against the Warriors in Gosford.
Alex Glenn was in an emotional state after the match in Gosford.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold, who is facing mounting pressure to keep his job, said it hurt him to see his players struggling emotionally.

“It makes me sad,” Seibold told the post-match media conference.

“The guys have been heavily criticised and, in some ways, rightly so for not winning some footy games.

“It means a lot to the group. We work and invest a lot of time … but we are just not getting our jobs done at the moment.

Despite holding a 10-6 lead at half-time, the Broncos were undone by their final 20 minutes and have now been outscored 86-8 since the start of the season across that period.

Down 16-12 with 20 minutes to go in Gosford, a clutch 40-20 from Blake Green turned the tide for the Warriors, who finished with a head full of steam for their first win in a month.

One try was remarkably overturned with a captain’s challenge when Anthony Milford was judged to have been obstructed in the lead-up, but three quick tries handed the Warriors the win.

A Brisbane Broncos NRL player holding the ball is tackled across his upper body by a Warriors opponent.
Xavier Coates (left) was a rare shining light for the Broncos.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

It was a masterclass in game management from Green just days after Warriors owner Mark Robinson said the half-back would be moved on at the end of the season.

The Warriors’ performance is even more impressive considering they lost five-eighth Kodi Nikorima to a head clash with Tevita Pangai Junior just four minutes into the match.

They were also without star skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who sat on the sidelines suspended.

Teenage sensation Xavier Coates was again the bright spot for the Broncos after scoring a quick double in the first half to notch up four tries from as many matches this season.

Panthers prevail against Tigers

A Nathan Cleary field goal has helped Penrith to fight off a gutsy Wests Tigers 19-12 in a heated contest at Parramatta Stadium.

In a high-quality affair, Cleary broke a 12-12 deadlock with eight minutes to play when he iced a field goal from 20 metres out to keep Penrith second on the ladder.

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Moments later, Apisai Koroisau put the match beyond doubt when he broke through the midfield and put Dylan Edwards over between the posts.

The win prompted Penrith coach Ivan Cleary to appear to respond to Tigers fans from the coach’s box, blowing kisses and pointing to the scoreboard after leaving the club two years ago mid-contract.

The Tigers also finished the match a player down, with Joey Leilua sin-binned for clocking Edwards high and off the ball in a play that will likely result in a suspension.

The match also ended in a melee, with Luke Garner placed on report for another high shot on Edwards on the siren.

Aside from Edwards’s try, Stephen Crichton crossed for a double and Cleary added three conversions for the Panthers.

Matthew Eisenhuth and Tommy Talau posted tries for the Tigers.

Sharks thrash Titans, Moylan goes down

The loss of Matt Moylan to injury did not stopped Cronulla running out convincing 40-10 winners over Gold Coast in Robina.

New Zealand international Shaun Johnson stood tall for the Sharks after the first-half departure of Moylan, as the visitors ran amok in the second term to seal their third straight victory for the first time since 2018.

Full-back Moylan lasted barely half-an-hour before aggravating his troublesome hamstring, trying to run down try-bound Titans winger Corey Thompson and adding to his injury woes.

Moylan was playing just his fifth match of the season after being restricted last season to only 11 appearances.

A Cronulla Sharks NRL player holds the ball with his left arm as he is tackled by three Gold Coast Titans players.
Cronulla’s Toby Rudolf proved a handful for the Gold Coast defence.(AAP: Dan Peled)

After leading 12-10 at half-time, Cronulla blew out the scoreline with five unanswered tries.

In the end, it was one-way traffic as Briton Nikora (41st), impressive hooker Blayke Brailey (50th), influential half-back Chad Townsend (57th), Royce Hunt (70th) and Bryson Goodwin (75th) all helped themselves.

AAP/ABC



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Nathan Cleary guides Penrith Panthers to 20-12 NRL win over South Sydney Rabbitohs


Nathan Cleary fought off a skin infection on his face and a six-hour stay in hospital to help Penrith to a gutsy 20-12 win over South Sydney at Kogarah Oval.

In Nepean Hospital on Wednesday with cellulitis, Cleary recovered in time to play with a swollen face and bandage on his upper nose.

The Panthers half scored a late try and had a small hand in two others to control the match perfectly, while also forcing two line drop-outs.

Also missing winger Josh Mansour, the Panthers have now won three of five matches since the competition’s restart and are among the genuine premiership threats.

They are provisionally first on the ladder and will stay there if both Parramatta and Newcastle lose this weekend.

Hit hard and high at the end of the first set of the match by Cameron Murray, Cleary recovered to put the ball on a dime for Viliame Kikau moments later.

Just as he did last week against Melbourne, Kikau got to the half-back’s bomb first and this time batted it back for Jarome Luai who found Brent Naden to score.

A Penrith NRL player smiles as he hugs Panthers teammates while they celebrate a try against the Rabbitohs.
Jarome Luai (centre) and the Panthers are in top spot on the ladder.(AAP: Craig Golding)

Luai was again influential in Penrith’s second, as he also stood up in the number six jersey.

As the Panthers continued to attack South Sydney’s right edge, he grubbered for a chasing Stephen Crichton to make it 8-0 at half-time.

Clearly battered, Cleary continued to be influential for Penrith in the second half.

He threw the last ball for a Dylan Edwards try, where the full-back did the majority of the work as he stepped and swatted away two defenders to make it 12-6.

And after booting a penalty goal himself, Cleary then got the Panthers’ last when he fought off four defenders to dummy his way across the line.

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The Rabbitohs, meanwhile, looked out of the contest for much of the match.

They only got their first try after half-time when Adam Reynolds went to the line and fired an inside ball for the flying Bayley Sironen to score his first points in the NRL.

They also spent part of the match with just 11 men, with James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell both sin-binned for professional fouls late on.

Hooker Damien Cook at one stage appeared to suffer a knee problem, but he finished the match and was running fine by the end.

Alex Johnston claimed a consolation try with the Rabbitohs’ place in the top eight now under threat for the rest of the weekend.

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Panthers post 21-14 NRL win over Melbourne, South Sydney beats Warriors 40-12 win


Penrith has proved it is among the NRL premiership contenders with an impressive 21-14 win over Melbourne in Campbelltown.

The Panthers’ win followed South Sydney’s classy 40-12 victory over the Warriors at Western Sydney Stadium.

With scores locked at 14-14 with 17 minutes to play in Campbelltown, Viliame Kikau pulled off the match-defining play when he charged onto a shallow Nathan Cleary bomb to score.

The play clearly infuriated Melbourne captain Cameron Smith, as Kikau went unchallenged for the ball just metres from the line.

Cleary then slotted a field goal from 30 metres out with four minutes to play to seal the victory.

The win was just the Panthers’ third over the Storm since 2005 and ensured they will finished the round in the top four and among the competition’s frontrunners.

It also means they can add the Storm to their list of scalps for the year, after also beating defending premiers Sydney Roosters in round one before losing narrowly to Parramatta last week.

In a high-quality match, both sides completed at above 80 per cent in a match that ebbed and flowed throughout.

The Panthers dominated the early stages, allowing Stephen Crichton to open the scoring after some nice lead up play by Jarome Luai and Josh Mansour.

They then handled a significant amount of pressure on their line, before Cameron Munster had his first impact by putting Felise Kaufusi over.

Penrith then got a key penalty just before the break, when Smith was penalised for taking out Cleary on a kick chase, allowing the playmaker to make it 8-6.

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Both sides then traded tries before Kikau’s match winner.

Penrith was again up by six when they outnumbered Melbourne on the right to allow Brian To’o to cross in the 50th minute.

But again Melbourne hit back through Munster’s hands, as he laid on a bullet two-man cut out pass for Brenko Lee to cross untouched.

Melbourne then levelled the scores through a penalty goal, before Kikau’s powerful run onto Cleary’s kick condemned the Storm to their second loss of the season.

Rabbitohs show attacking flair

South Sydney has posted back-to-back wins for the first time this season, running in seven tries against the hapless Warriors.

Latrell Mitchell set up two tries and saved as many in a slick performance at the back, as the Warriors crumbled under sustained pressure from the Rabbitohs.

Mitchell gifted Campbell Graham and Alex Johnston tries in the first half to set up an unassailable 22-6 lead at half-time.

A week after they trounced North Queensland in Gosford, the Warriors crumbled under a poor completion rate, maintaining their own trend of inconsistency this season.

Just three weeks ago the Warriors set an NRL record for most consecutive completed sets with 44 against St George Illawarra but they looked a far cry from that standard of performance on Friday night.

Instead, in front of a devoted crowd of 436 spectators, it was the Rabbitohs who found their groove.

South Sydney ran in two easy tries within six minutes while Kodi Nikorima was in the sin-bin for a professional foul midway through the first half.

Rabbitohs winger Dane Gagai had pinched an intercept 10 metres from his own line and raced 70 metres before he was brought down and Nikorima was pinged for attempting to slow him down.

A South Sydney NRL player kisses the taping on his left wrist as he celebrates a try.
South Sydney five-eighth Cody Walker scored a try in his 100th NRL appearance.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Conversely, the Rabbitohs scored while Cody Walker — playing his 100th NRL match — was in the sin-bin for repeated ruck interferences at the end of the first half.

Walker soon made up for his transgression, scoring through broken play on the line just minutes after he returned to cap off a memorable milestone match.

Tries to Damien Cook and a second from Johnson off a perfectly-placed Walker chip-kick added to the impressive total in the second half.

The Warriors scored first, in the sixth minute, when Blake Green floated a ball out to winger David Fusitu’a, but that is where the joy stopped until Agnatius Paasi grabbed a consolation try in the dying minutes.

Forward Lachlan Burr was lost to concussion early in the first half, while Fusitu’a was also taken off after copping a high shot from Mitchell while attempting to score.

Mitchell could face sanction from the match review committee on Saturday morning.

AAP



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Melbourne Storm nab 14-point win over South Sydney Rabbitohs in NRL, after Penrith Panthers rout Warriors 26-0


The Melbourne Storm have beaten South Sydney 22-8, becoming one of the only teams to actually win a tight game since the NRL returned with its new set of rules and interpretations.

Blowouts and late routs become a hallmark of the ‘new’ NRL, with the Tigers’ 28-16 win over the Sharks the smallest margin of victory in rounds three and four so far.

Through the first 10 games since the resumption, the average winning margin was a whopping 23.1 points, including three wins to nil, and as yet no team has won a game by fewer than 12 points (or two converted tries). That is compared to an average point differential of 12.6 points through the first 16 games of the season.

And while Friday’s win was a hotly contested affair, a late Justin Olam try pushed the margin out to 14, meaning last Sunday’s 14-14 draw between the Panthers and Knights remains the only game that was not decided by a healthy margin since round three kicked off.

Friday night’s game in Melbourne may have been more gripping than some clashes this season, but it was certainly messy.

The Storm struggled when they got good field position, particularly early in the game, so it was not overly surprising that their first try came from their own defensive half of the field, after late inclusion Brenko Lee sent Suliasi Vunivalu down the blindside wing.

Melbourne Storm players Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith and Brandon Smith try to tackle South Sydney Rabbitohs' Latrell Mitchell.
The game was one of the rare tight contests from the past two weeks.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

He found fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen back on the inside, who dove in for the opening try, but the Rabbitohs hit back soon after thanks to a beautiful pass by Latrell Mitchell that put Alex Johnston in space, with the winger producing a sensational leap to plant the ball in the corner.

Neither side could break the other’s tryline defence, so again the Storm had to do it from the wrong side of halfway.

Cameron Munster provided the spark in the 34th minute when he burst through the Rabbitohs and went 40 metres before finding halfback Jahrome Hughes, who attempted an audacious grubber despite having numbers outside him, and Vunivalu touched down when Johnston failed to mop up.

It ensured Melbourne held a slim lead at half-time and it seemed to have been extended six minutes after the break, when Hughes sliced through the middle from 10 metres out. But the Storm’s disjointed attack came back to bite them when the bunker ruled one of the Storm decoy runners had obstructed Damien Cook in the lead-up.

Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds squared the ledger soon after, with a penalty goal on the back of a Christian Welch strip.

But the Storm returned serve as Cameron Smith put a kick between the sticks for the first time on the night, potting a 33-metre penalty goal after South Sydney was penalised for taking out Papenhuyzen before he had the ball.

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After Souths seemed intent on handing the ball back any time they got it, eventually ending up with 18 errors on the night, the Storm scored a decisive try in the 66th minute when Munster, who was one of the Storm’s best on the night, found Josh Addo-Carr with a pinpoint cross-field kick.

Smith slotted the sideline conversion to push the lead out beyond a converted try and with 10 minutes left came up with a try-saving tackle on Dane Gagai out on the wing, where Addo-Carr would normally be defending if not for what looked like an injured rib.

Another Munster line break in the 77th minute ended in the try to Olam to push the lead out to a decisive margin.

Josh Mansour is hugged by Penrith Panthers teammates after a try in the NRL clash with the Warriors.
After holding the Dragons to zero last week, the Warriors had the script flipped on them this week.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Earlier on Friday night, the league hosted its third game since coming back where one of the teams was kept scoreless, as the Panthers thumped the Warriors 26-0.

It was a complete reversal for the New Zealand side after their first week back, when they embarrassed the Dragons 18-0.



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NRL 2020. Penrith Panthers Vs New Zealand Warriors: Luckless rookie’s stunning NRL comeback – NEWS.com.au


  1. NRL 2020. Penrith Panthers Vs New Zealand Warriors: Luckless rookie’s stunning NRL comeback  NEWS.com.au
  2. Live NRL: Warriors have no answers as young Panthers bounce back from Rd 3 epic  Fox Sports
  3. Cleary confident of Burton bounce back after field goal woes  NRL.COM
  4. Rookie playmaker expected to deliver tonight for Panthers  FBC News
  5. Michael Ennis lauds Panthers rookie Matt Burton’s ‘bounce back double’ after field goal heartbreak  Fox Sports
  6. View Full coverage on Google News



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