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Handshake deal: Cleary poise gets Panthers past valiant Broncos

Nathan Cleary is the new iceman of the NRL with Penrith coach Ivan Cleary stunned at his own son’s composure as he kept the Panthers undefeated start to 2021 rolling on Thursday night.

Cleary delivered the killer punch as the Panthers survived a massive scare against a spirited Brisbane outfit with a gritty 20-12 victory at Suncorp Stadium.

In an arm wrestle of a contest that defied pre-game expectations, the Broncos made the Panthers work for everything in perhaps the most promising sign of a Red Hill revival under new coach Kevin Walters.

Cleary eventually shattered Bronco hearts when he broke the 12-12 deadlock with a 43m two-point field goal in the 74th minute to extended his side's perfect start to 2021.

"He is getting better, he is seeing the game slowing down for him a bit," Ivan Cleary said.

"In those big moments and he has had a fair share of them now, he can see what to do and he got the execution part right.

"He has played four finals series, three Origin series and is sort of racking those up and it’s just experience and confidence."

The Panthers coach revealed his son spent 20 minutes after training just practicing field goals and while he wasn’t hitting them sweetly during the week, he nailed it perfectly when it mattered most and under extreme fatigue.

"At the end of a big game there is so much more involved than what we get at training," he said.

Clutch Cleary with the two-point field goal

Broncos fullback Jamayne Isaako had missed his own 43m field goal attempt just seconds earlier as Brisbane's lamented the absence of a matchwinner of their own.

Cleary then sealed the victory with a try running off Jerome Luai in the 78th minute, much to the disappointment of many of the 21,224 fans who were dreaming of a miracle upset.

After a week where the Panthers had been scolded for perceived arrogance and petulant behaviour stemming from post-try carry-on against Canberra, the Panthers opted for subdued handshakes after tries against the Broncos.

The coach said the players handled the week of distraction well and was adamant if he felt any disrespectful behaviour growing within his team he’d pull it up quickly.

"Respect is a value of our team. Our boys have been pretty much doing the same thing the last 18 months and everyone loved us when we did it last year," he said.

"But we’ve gone through the honeymoon period and now we’ve had a bit of success people look at us differently now. I think it’s a storm in a teacup."

Handshakes all round as Burton strolls over

It had been a big week for the Broncos after coach Kevin Walters sent the club’s highest-paid player Anthony Milford to the Intrust Super Cup in a bid to reinvigorate his marquee man but also send a message to his underperforming team that no reputation is too big to be dropped.

Luai the spark, Cleary the finish

It had the desired effect as the Broncos produced arguably their most impressive performance in two seasons even if they didn’t get the competition points.

"I thought they [Brisbane] played really well. They’re a good footy team with a lot of good players and are a very proud club," Cleary said.

"It’s one of the best 80-minute performances we’ve seen them play for a long time. We had to reach deep into our kit bag to get that one done so I’m pretty happy actually.

"Let’s face it all big games are won at the end of the game. To have that confidence to make the right decision at the right time probably gave us a little bit of an edge tonight because we’ve been involved in more of those games."

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.