Penrith has locked in a top three finish after downing St George-Illawarra 34-16 at Suncorp Stadium.
Nathan Cleary made a strong return for Penrith as everything started to fall back into place – despite an error-riddled start, they eventually put the foot down to put the Dragons away.
St George-Illawarra had all the early ball but the game changed when Brent Naden scored a runaway intercept try in the 13th minute.
Penrith took a 16-6 lead into half-time and started the second half strongly, Dylan Edwards and Matt Burton grabbing quick tries to put the Panthers in a commanding position.
While Penrith’s error rate wouldn’t have pleased coach Ivan Cleary, he’d be happy that the side looked much more organised with son Nathan in control.
“It makes a big different when you have an elite halfback. There’s not many around so it definitely makes a difference to the way your team functions and how everyone connects,” he said post-match.
“There were some good things about today but plenty we need to work on.”
Nathan Cleary said he felt he came through the came well.
“The shoulder’s actually really good. I made a few tackles early with it and that got me a lot of confidence,” he said.
“Early on I felt they were targeting me a bit but I got confidence out of it.”
Cleary was among Penrith’s best, but fullback Dylan Edwards produced one of his best games of the season – scoring two tries on his way to a man of the match performance.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.