- Penrith completed one of the greatest comebacks in NRL history
- The Panthers were down 16 points with 19 minutes remaining against the Broncos
- But Nathan Cleary led the fightback in a historic victory for his team
The Penrith Panthers completed one of the greatest comebacks in NRL history to win the grand final after overturning a 16-point deficit in Sydney.
The reigning premiers looked completely out of place after allowing Ezra Mam to score a quick second-half hat-trick on Sunday night, but fought back magnificently to break Brisbane hearts at Accor Stadium.
Led by Nathan Cleary, it was the Penrith half-back who scored the winning try.
Mitch Kenny was the unlikely source of the opening try as the hooker pounced on a Broncos error to score easily after a period of sustained pressure from Penrith.
The first half was a one-sided attack with Brisbane camped in their 20, but the Panthers were unable to convert this dominance into points and were made to pay as Thomas Flegler got his team back into the contest before the break.
Brisbane, with renewed goal after the break, took revenge in the second half and Mam put Walters’ side ahead with a blistering run for the corner. Dylan Edwards couldn’t stop him.
Penrith took the lead through an unlikely source as Mitch Kenny scored the first try
Panthers hooker pounces on Broncos error to score for reigning premiers
Mam was too quick for the Penrith defense and scored three times in the second half
The youngster struck again moments later as he dodged tackles from Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo to cross the line.
Before Penrith had time to come to terms with their 10-point deficit, Mam crossed the line for the third time after being dragged down by Reece Walsh.
But Penrith refused to bow out and, slowly but surely, eased their way back into the competition.
Moses Leota gave his side a lifeline in the 62nd minute before Stephen Crichton pulled Penrith to within four points of Brisbane with a score in the corner.
With tired legs and low morale, the Broncos gave in to Panthers pressure and succumbed to Cleary who flew in for the winning score.
“It doesn’t even feel real right now, it feels like a dream,” Cleary said. “The start of that second half was a nightmare, but our mindset was that we were down but never out.
“It’s definitely on Origin level (in terms of difficulty). So much fatigue. I told myself to keep going, keep going, keep fighting and that’s what we’re doing.
A devastated Adam Reynolds said: “Extremely proud, but we let that one slip. I have nothing to criticize the team, just lack of concentration.
“This is a difficult question to accept. Thanks to Penrith, they were fantastic, led by Nathan Cleary. I have no words, I can’t summarize this one.