The Penrith Panthers came into the 2021 NRL season looking to go one step further. Having lost the 2020 NRL Grand Final, this young Panthers team was hungry to be crowned Champions.
After starting the season with a 12 game winning streak the Panthers squad was decimated by State Of Origin selections. During the Origin series halfback Nathan Cleary suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out a number of weeks, and this saw the Panthers come home with a bit of a wet sail towards the end of the season despite finishing on equal competition points with the minor premiers the Melbourne Storm.
The Panthers would lose their first finals game against their eventual Grand Final opponents the South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-10. The Panthers would then go one to beat the Parramatta Eels 8-6 and their 2020 NRL Grand Final opponents the Melbourne Storm 10-6 and win their way into the Grand Final against the Rabbitohs.
The Grand Final was a brutal, tense affair with both sides showing toughness to get through the match. While the Panthers got on the scoreboard first through Matthew Burton a brilliant solo try by South Sydney star Cody Walker saw the Rabbitohs claw their way back into the game. At half time, only a long penalty goal separated the two teams at 8-6.
The second half saw a little big more attacking football, but it was still a brutal defensive display by the Panthers. An early penalty to the Rabbitohs saw them level the score at 8 all until a Stephen Crichton intercept in the last quarter of the match saw the Panthers take a 6 point lead once again.
Rabbitohs winger Alex Johnston would score in the corner in the 73rd minute, and souths halfback Adam Reynolds would miss the sideline conversion. That would end up being the difference between the two teams.
The Penrith Panthers – 2021 NRL Grand Final Team
1. Dylan Edwards
2. Stephen Crichton
3. Paul Momirovski
4. Matthew Burton
5. Brian To’o
6. Jerome Luai
7. Nathan Cleary
8. Moses Leota
9. Apisai Koroisau
10. James Fisher-Harris
12. Kurt Capwell
17. Liam Martin
13. Isaah Yeo
11. Villiame Kikau
14. Tyrone May
15. Scott Sorensen
16. Spencer Leniu
18. Brent Naden
Coach: Ivan Cleary
Penrith Panthers 14
Tries: Matthew Burton, Stephen Crichton
Goals: Nathan Cleary 3/3
South Sydney Rabbitohs 12
Tries: Cody Walker, Alex Johnston
Goals: Adam Reynolds 2/3
Nathan Cleary was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal as the man of the match, but in all honesty, there were few players undeserving on the field in this game. This was a tough game of Rugby League, with both sides giving their all.
Ivan and Nathan Cleary became the second father/son, coach/player combination to win a Premiership at the Panthers after John and Martin Lang achieved the same feat in the Panthers 2003 NRL Grand Final victory.
This is the Penrith Panthers third Premiership victory in five Grand Final appearances. The Club win the 1991, 2003 and 2021 NRL Grand Finals while losing the 1990 Grand Final against the Canberra Raiders and the 2020 Grand Final against the Melbourne Storm.
Last but not least, this is MY reaction that was recorded a couple of hours after the game on the Fergo and The Freak NRL podcast:
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
Sep 07, 2022 0