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The Panthers grinded their way to a 16-10 victory over the Bulldogs on Friday however face another extended period without Nathan Cleary after the star halfback reaggravated his hamstring injury.

Cleary was seen walking straight up the tunnel of BlueBet Stadium just before halftime after a kick in play and watched on from the coach's box as his side made it four on the trot.

The news comes after the star skipper returned from a five-week layoff with the same hamstring and could now also be ruled out of contention for the State of Origin series opener on June 5.

An error riddled start from the Premiers saw the Bulldogs gifted several early opportunities in the red zone but Cleary came up with a couple of big trysavers to deny the visitors any points. 

After a 25 minute arm-wrestle, the Panthers struck first with Luke Garner busting through five would-be tacklers over the line. 

Luke Garner Try

The Panthers took some breathing room into the break when Dylan Edwards kept a loose ball alive before sending it right for Brian To'o who ducked and dived his way over the line to make it 12-0 at half time. 

Celebrations quickly ceased for the home fans however when Cleary was seen marching up the tunnel after aggravating a hamstring injury. 

Cleary off and up the tunnel

Despite losing their halfback over the break, the Panthers continued to build pressure in the second half and the Bulldogs conceded another two points after Josh Curran was penalised for a second effort and Edwards slotted a penalty goal.

The Bulldogs looked to get on the board after Josh Addo-Carr finished off a slick left side shift however the try was called back for a forward pass.

Ten minutes later, the visitors were finally on the board when a charging Matt Burton pushed through Alamoti on the left edge to reduce the deficit 14-4.

With five minutes on the clock, Panthers added the extras after a Kikau infringement penalty handed the premiers another shot at goal before Jacob Kiraz spun his way over on the right edge for a consolation try in the shadows of full time. 

Match Snapshot

  • A surprise switch from the Panthers saw star winger Brian To'o start on the right wing alongside rookie Paul Alamoti.
  • After being named on the bench, rookie playmaker Jack Cole stepped up to replace Nathan Cleary in the second half.
  • Discipline in defence hurt the Bulldogs with Cameron Ciraldo's men missing 56 tackles compared to Penrith's 32.
  • The Bulldogs had four Panthers’ premiership winners in their line-up.
  • Bulldogs hooker Reed Mahoney had a tireless performance with 64 tackles.

Edwards in perfect position

  • Panthers fullback Liam Martin got through plenty of work again with 248 run metres and nine tackle breaks.
  • Panthers forward Liam Martin was sent for a HIA in the final fifteen minutes of the match.
  • The Bulldogs have not won at BlueBet Stadium since 2016.
  • The Panthers have won 13 of their past 14 games at BlueBet Stadium.

Play of the Game 

In a low scoring affair, it could have been a very different story if it wasn't for Cleary's efforts in defence early in the game. The star skipper came up with two big trysavers before succumbing to injury, including this desperate cover tackle, rushing across from the back play to assist Paul Alamoti in pushing out star winger Josh Addo-Carr.

Addo-Carr goes so close

What They Said 

"t's very disappointing for him (Nathan), I'm torn between his coach and his dad right now. Especially that first half, I thought he was really starting to come into his own but the show goes on. We've got to get a scan and see the damage.

We were 12-0 at half time and then obviously after what happened with Nathan, there was a long way to go so I thought the boys did a really good job in the second half in terms of mindset and field position. Both sides started to make a few mistakes but we were obviously quite clunky too." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary

Panthers: Round 10

"We came here confident but I think we're leaving here even more confident. Physically we look really good, systems wise we're looking a lot better and the more we train the better we'll get. I thought it was a good contest, I really liked the start of the game with both teams going set for set. It looked like semi-final intensity at the start of the game, it was enjoyable to watch and I thought we handled ourselves really well. We probably let ourselves down 20 minutes before half time when Nathan put on a bit of a masterclass in terms of field possession." - Bulldogs coach Cameron Ciraldo

Bulldogs: Round 10

What's Next

The Panthers enjoy a long turnaround as they now look to face the Warriors at Suncorp Stadium for Magic Round while Bulldogs kick off the festival of footy against the Raiders on Friday.

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.