A solid display in the first half led Penrith Panthers to top of the NRL table thanks to a 20-12 victory over South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Panthers were up 8-0 at half-time thanks to tries from Brent Naden and Stephen Crichton. Souths were better in the second half, getting a try to reduce the defici,t but Dylan Edwards’ score out of nowhere moved Penrith clear and Cleary sealed the win with three minutes to go.
The Panthers had the better of the opening exchanges. The returning Naden scored off the back of Nathan Cleary’s kick. But when it looked like the Rabbitohs had worked their way back into the scrap, Penrith struck again. A kick from Jarome Luai was perfect for an on rushing Crichton.
South Sydney got back into the game when Bayley Sironen latched on to an inside ball from Adam Reynolds but Edwards’ try made it 12-6 to Penrith.
Cleary’s poor conversion kicking for Penrith meant that he had to take a penalty opportunity to push two scores clear after James Roberts was sin binned for a professional foul on Crichton on his return to the South Sydney side.
Latrell Mitchell finished off his night with a sin binning for a professional foul on Naden after a break from Crichton threatened Souths’ line. That gave Cleary the opportunity to seal the win with a show and go. Alex Johnston’s score for the Bunnies with a minute to play was just a consolation.
Panthers: Edwards, To’o, Whare, Crichton, Naden, Luai, Cleary, Tamou, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Martin, Yeo; Interchanges: Burton, Tetevano, Leota, Burns
Tries: Naden, Crichton, Edwards, Cleary; Goals: Cleary 2
Rabbitohs: Mitchell, Gagai, Graham, Burns, Johnston, Walker, Reynolds, Tatola, Cook, Burgess, Su’A, Lowe, Murray; Interchanges: Knight, Sironen, Roberts, Sele
Tries: Sironen, Johnston; Goals: Reynolds 2
Sin bin: Roberts (69) – professional foul, Mitchell (77) – professional foul
Full match reports of all this weekend’s NRL games will feature in Monday’s League Express.