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19 Mar 2018 10:08
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby League

    In-form Penrith get job done on Kiwi soil

    In an NRL match they anticipated would be among their toughest this year, Penrith travel back across the ditch satisfied by a job well done.

    - article from

    Weeks ago, poring over their calendars, the Penrith Panthers marked a thick circle around the date July 14, 2017.

    The Warriors, in frigid Auckland. The toughest of NRL away days.

    And now, with a solid 34-22 win to take back across the ditch, young playmaker Nathan Cleary and his teammates can begin to dream of finals football.

    On the brink barely two months ago, the Panthers have turned around a 2-7 early-season record to sit just two points outside the top eight - and after Friday's gritty win, their sixth in eight games, Cleary wants a title run.

    "We pencilled this one in as a tough away trip, we needed the two points. So to come away with those points is essential," the 19-year-old told reporters.

    "A couple times this year, we've fallen behind and kind of lost our confidence and then the game's gotten away from us, but tonight we stuck in."

    Should the Panthrs sneak into this year's finals, they'll mostly have their prodigious halfback - in just his second year of NRL footy - to thank.

    Cleary was near flawless in his side's win on Kiwi soil, bagging a hat-trick of tries, kicking five from six and running the show in the absence of linchpin Matt Moylan and injured captain Trent Merrin.

    He even laid on a pair of assists on his old stomping ground, having grown up around Mount Smart Stadium during father Ivan's Warriors coaching stint.

    Nevertheless, Cleary - an outside option for the Blues' No.7 jumper next year - put his classy display down to the solid work of his forwards, who steamrolled their Warriors counterparts after Shaun Johnson's 62nd-minute injury.

    Winnable fixtures now follow against the Titans, Bulldogs and Tigers.

    "Them getting forward and leaving the markers down in the ruck, and I could just come over the ball - I think I was pretty lucky tonight," Cleary said.

    "We're starting to get settled, building a game plan we can play off, so I think the main thing is getting the simple things right.

    "I'm just stoked for the boys."


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