- Penrith have completed one of the greatest comebacks in NRL history
- The Panthers were 16 points down with 19 minutes remaining vs Broncos
- But Nathan Cleary led the fightback in an historic victory for his side
Penrith Panthers have completed one of the greatest comebacks in NRL history to win the grand final after overturning a 16-point deficit in Sydney.
The reigning premiers looked completely out of it after allowing Ezra Mam to score a quickfire second half hat trick on Sunday night, but fought back magnificently to break Brisbane’s hearts at Accor Stadium.
Led by Nathan Cleary, it was the Penrith halfback who bagged the winning try.
Mitch Kenny was the unlikely source of the opening try as the hooker pounced on a Broncos error to score with ease after a period of sustained pressure from Penrith.
The first half was a one-sided onslaught with Brisbane camped in their own 20, but the Panthers were unable to convert that dominance into points and were made to pay as Thomas Flegler clawed his side back into the contest before the break.
Brisbane, with renewed purpose after the interval, came out with a vengeance for the second half and Mam put Walters’ side in front with a blistering run for the corner. Dylan Edwards was unable to stop him.
Penrith took the lead through an unlikely source as Mitch Kenny scored the opening try
The Panthers hooker pounced on a Broncos error to score for the reigning premiers
Mam was too quick for Penrith’s defence and scored three times in the second half
The youngster struck again moments later as he dodged tackles from Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo to cruise over the line.
Before Penrith had time to come to terms with their 10-point deficit, Mam was over the line for a third time after being teed up by Reece Walsh.
But Penrith refused to count themselves out and slowly but surely built themselves back into the contest.
Moses Leota gave his side a lifeline on the 62nd minute before Stephen Crichton brought Penrith within four points of Brisbane with a score in the corner.
With tired legs and morale dented, the Broncos relented to the Panthers’ pressure and succumbed to Cleary who soared through for the winning score.
‘This doesn’t even feel real at the moment, feels like a dream,’ Cleary said. ‘The start of that second half was a nightmare but our mindset was we’re down but never out.
‘That’s up there with Origin [in terms of difficulty] for sure. So much fatigue. Told myself to keep going, keep going, keep fighting and that’s what we do.’
A devastated Adam Reynolds said: ‘Extremely proud but we let that one slip. I can’t fault the team, just lapses of concentration.
‘It’s a tough one to take. Credit to Penrith they were fantastic, led by Nathan Cleary. I’ve got no words, can’t sum that one up.’