Penrith Panthers won their sixth game of the season, 20-12, against a enthusiastic Brisbane Broncos side tonight at Suncorp Stadium.
Cue the Great Escape music - because the Panthers got away with that tonight. Some late Cleary heroics with both the boot and hand helped the ladder leaders past a gallant but still naive Broncos side that showed up for their coach and fans tonight.
In a week where the Panthers were labeled arrogant by plenty, this was definitely not a boastful performance. They looked lethargic on both sides of the field and escaped with the result against a Broncos outfit that gave them a tough tussle tonight. Ultimately, the Panthers remain undefeated and had a cheeky dig with their handshake post-try celebration.
From the kick-off, the Broncos looked much more energised against the leaders. They were first on the scoreboard through Jamayne Isaako's penalty goal and showed some thrust in defense to keep the Panthers quiet. Maybe the bake the side got in the pre-match from coach Kevin Walters worked a treat.
The only fraility in the Broncos defense was when Luke Capewell strolled through for the opening try to make it 4-2. They did fall off some tackles late for Nathan Cleary to stretch the margin to eight but that can be forgiven after being in the tussle with the Panthers for the whole contest.
Half turned centre Matt Burton continued to show his wide array of talents, finishing off a backline move for the Panthers second. Burton has done well stepping in for Stephen Crichton on the left edge and shows the depth last year's runners-up have.
Brisbane never stopped turning up though. Man of the Match Tevita Pangai Junior showed some grace to dive over to make it 8-6. Pangai Junior was involved in much of the positive aspects of the Broncos play tonight and tried to will the side to the result. He had an able deputies in props Payne Haas and Matthew Lodge bent the line with each run.
Panthers showed some grit which they haven't had to resort often thus far in 2021. The game went set for set and the Broncos matched them for 70 minutes. It took class from both of the halves for the Panthers to seal the contest. First, Nathan Cleary nailed the second two-point field goal of the season to make it 14-12 then Jarome Luai danced through defenders before putting Cleary over.
Yes - it is another loss for the Broncos but there was a small sense of hope for them coming out of tonight's game. The defence to keep them in the contest was good and a few moments of class including the pass from the recalled Brodie Croft to Ethan Bullemor making it 12-10 showed Croft might have a future in the six jumper.