Panthers sneak home in one of the all-time great Finals battles

Nathan Cleary in action against the Eels. Photo: NRL Photos.
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Penrith are 80 minutes away from the NRL Grand Final after an epic 8-6 victory over arch rivals Parramatta in Mackay.

It was one of the most gritty Finals games of all-time with a Nathan Cleary penalty goal on the stroke of half-time proving the difference in the end.

Parramatta had numerous chances to claim victory in the final minutes with Penrith’s stoic defence tested to its limit in a game that tested the blood pressure levels of every Panthers fan watching at home.

The Eels scored the first try of the game when Dylan Edwards failed to diffuse a bomb, Waqa Blake picking up the crumbs to cross and open up a 6-0 lead.

Penrith hit back when Kurt Capewell pounced on a beautifully placed short kick from Cleary, levelling the scores in the 16th minute.

Liam Martin takes the ball up for Penrith. Photo: NRL Photos.

Cleary’s penalty goal just before the break turned out to be the final points of the game – with the 8-6 scoreline unchanged in the second half.

The Panthers appeared to have extended the lead when Brent Naden was awarded a try mid-way through the second half, but it was called back after The Bunker spotted Jarome Luai off-side.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said it was an incredibly intense tussle.

“It was a good old fashioned semi final,” he said.

“I thought it was fitting that we finished the game with a defensive stand.”

The Panthers play Melbourne next Saturday afternoon for a spot in the season decider.

Isaah Yeo was strong up front for Penrith. Photo: NRL Photos.

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