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Panthers cruise to victory over Wests Tigers

The Penrith Panthers have kept their minor premiership hopes alive with a hard-fought 30-16 win over the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon. 

It was a historic afternoon as Nathan Cleary became the second youngest player to score 1,000 NRL points. 

Brian To’o, meanwhile, returned from injury in style with 286 running metres, 10 tackle busts and a try. 

Viliame Kikau was a constant threat on the edge with over 200 metres, 10 tackle breaks and a try of his own while Tevita Pangai Junior impressed off the bench with his first try as a Panther. 

To’o almost celebrated his comeback with the opening try as he dived over in the corner in the 10th minute.  

Strong pressure from David Nofoaluma though saw To’o place a foot on the sideline. 

Instead it was Moses Leota who was the unlikely first try scorer, surging onto a clever Cleary kick towards the uprights.  

Cleary then slotted the extras to make it 6-0.

Leota pounces on a pin-point grubber from Cleary

The Tigers though hit back shortly after as Jacob Liddle darted through the middle and linked with Stefano Utoikamanu. 

Luke Brooks added the two to lock the game up. 

To’o again went close to scoring shortly after and this time it took several Tigers to deny him in the left corner. 

Isaah Yeo was the next to threaten the scoreboard, slicing through but unable to find a free Panther in support.  

Eventually though it was Pangai Junior who scored his first try in Penrith colours as he beat three Tigers defenders before barging over under the posts.

Pangai Junior brushes defenders aside

Cleary kicked the goal to reclaim the six-point lead. 

The Panthers almost went back-to-back as a slick offload from Viliame Kikau sent Matt Burton racing down the left sideline but a try-saving effort from Nofoaluma denied him.  

HALF-TIME: Panthers 12 - Tigers 6 

Nothing could stop Jarome Luai though as the Panthers five-eighth took on the line and recorded Penrith’s third of the afternoon in the 45th minute.  

Luai slices through with ease

Cleary added the extras before then laying it on a platter for Kikau to stroll through and step Moses Mbye to score. 

The Panthers halfback guided it through the posts to make it 24-6 with half-an-hour left. 

Cleary and Kikau combine

The Tigers bravely defended their line for the next 15 minutes before eventually breaking as To’o was rewarded with a well-earned try. 

Cleary then nailed his toughest conversion of the game, curling it in from the left touchline.

To'o seals return with four-pointer

Kikau almost had his second of the match shortly after but dropped the ball when attempting to ground it.  

Jake Simpkin did not make the same mistake for the Tigers, reaching out from dummy-half as the Tigers reduced the deficit to 18 points. 

Ken Maumalo then capitalised on miscommunication at the back to dive over in the corner but Brooks could not convert from the sideline, leaving the final difference at 14. 

FULL-TIME: Panthers 30 - Tigers 16