25 Sep 2021

Cleary under shadow after Panthers win

8:40 pm on 25 September 2021

Nathan Cleary faces an anxious wait to learn whether he is charged over a lifting tackle after spearheading Penrith to an epic 10-6 defeat over an injury-hit Melbourne.

Melbourne's Josh Ado-Carr tackles Penrith's Nathan Cleary

Melbourne's Josh Ado-Carr tackles Penrith's Nathan Cleary Photo: AAP IMAGE

The win avenged last year's grand final defeat and gives the Panthers the opportunity to go one better next Sunday.

Cleary was placed on report for the second-half tackle on Kenny Bromwich as Penrith booked their place against the Rabbitohs in an all-Sydney grand final at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

The Panthers had to do it the hard way after losing to South Sydney in the qualifying final and having to overcome Parramatta last weekend and the Storm on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium.

Melbourne lost Queensland Origin prop Christian Welch and New Zealand hooker Brandon Smith in the early exchanges and committed uncharacteristic errors, with the premiers completing just nine of 25 sets in the first half and 17 of 23 in the second half.

The only try of the first half was scored by Stephen Crichton in just the fourth minute after Cleary showed great vision to kick from dummy half for his unmarked winger, who simply caught the ball just metres from the Storm line and put it down untouched.

Cleary was placed on report in the 24th minute for a lifting tackle on Kenny Bromwich, who became the third Storm forward to leave the field as Melbourne took advantage of the free interchange for foul play.

With fatigue beginning to impact both teams, the pendulum appeared to be swinging in favour of the Storm when Jarome Luai was forced from the field for a HIA in the 33rd minute after falling heavily in a tackle by opposite number Cameron Munster.

The return of Luai after halftime coincided with the Panthers regaining control and he combined with second-rower Viliame Kikau to put winger Brian To'o over for a 43rd minute try after Josh Addo-Carr lost the ball on the opposite side of the field.

Cleary was unable to convert from out wide and the 10-0 lead did not seem to be enough as Melbourne lifted the intensity in a desperate bid to keep alive their hopes of back-to-back premierships.

Star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen eventually found a way through the Penrith defence when he pounced on a Munster grubber kick behind Kikau to score in the 64th minute.

However, Penrith's defensive resolve was unwavering and they held on to ground out a gritty 10-6 win and book back-to-back grand final appearances.

- NRL.com