Cleary plays through pain to lead Panthers to grand final glory over Souths
October 3, 2021 10:35 pm
Nathan Cleary played through the pain of a busted shoulder and Stephen Crichton etched his name into grand final folklore as the Panthers won a nail-biting victory over South Sydney.
Redemption has come for the Panthers with their 14-12 win, just 12 months after their heart-breaking loss to the Melbourne Storm.
It is the Panthers’ third premiership after titles in 1991 and 2003, but the first for head coach Ivan Cleary after missing out in 2011 with the Warriors and then last season.
The win came off the back of 57% possession for most of the match, brick wall-defence, and the relentless kicking game by the Panthers – Nathan Cleary making 20 of 26 kicks to add up to over 750 metres.
Some soft defence led to both teams scoring early tries.
Panthers centre Matt Burton accelerated through a hole opened up by Campbell Graham coming off his line too early. Then four minutes later, Cody Walker busted through three defenders on a 30-metre run to the Panthers line to square things up at 6-6.
BRIAN TO’O PROPOSES 💍
— NRL (@NRL) October 3, 2021
A Cleary penalty brought up an 8-6 half-time lead to the Panthers. Then four minutes after the break Reynolds booted a penalty to lock it up for a second time.
Penrith tried desperately to get ahead. First a Cleary offload to Viliame Kikau was ruled forward, as was a Dylan Edwards’ tap-on to winger Stephen Crichton.
But Crichton got his grand final moment not long after, when he intercepted a Walker pass to sprint 45 metres to the line untouched.
The Panthers looked home at 14-8 but Souths hit back with six minutes left on the clock when Alex Johnston touched down for the 30th and most important try of his record-breaking season.
Reynolds looked like he was curling the sideline conversion over but it swerved late and the score remained 14-12.
This title decider will live long in league folklore as one of the most thrilling contests with both teams throwing everything at their opponents over the course of 80 minutes.