Nathan Cleary sends NRL world into meltdown after 'absolute freak' moment

The Penrith Panthers halfback is the talk of the NRL world despite their loss to the Eels.

Nathan Cleary, pictured here nailing a two-point field goal to send the Penrith-Parramatta game to golden point.
Nathan Cleary nailed a two-point field goal to send the Penrith-Parramatta game to golden point. Image: Fox Sports/Getty

Mitchell Moses might have won the game for the Eels in a 17-16 golden point thriller against the Panthers, but it was Nathan Cleary who stole the show with an outrageous 45-metre field goal to send the game to extra time. The Eels finally got their first win of the season on Thursday night, with Moses slotting a field goal in golden point to celebrate a reported new deal with Parramatta worth $6 million.

However the efforts of Cleary to send the game to extra time left the NRL world speechless. The Eels looked to be home when they led 16-14 with 20 seconds remaining at CommBank Stadium, before a high tackle and subsequent sin-binning from Junior Paulo turned the game on its head.

BRUTAL: Wayne Bennett's spray for Dolphins despite 3-0 start

HITTING BACK: Tim Sheens defends Tigers move amid backlash

The penalty gave the Panthers the chance to kick for touch and launch an attempt at a two-point field goal, with Cleary grabbing his opportunity and nailing it. Cleary found touch about 40 metres out from the Eels' line, before launching his field-goal attempt from 45m out and absolutely nailing it.

The halfback's sweet strike sailed straight over the black dot to knot the score at 16-16 and send the game to golden point. Because he took the shot from beyond 40 metres out, it was worth two points rather than the usual one.

Cleary's heroics went in vain as Moses slotted the game-winning field goal in extra time, but the Penrith co-captain was the talk of the NRL world after the game. Commentator Andrew Voss said on Fox Sports: “A piece of magic from the No. 7 from Penrith, a two-point field goal, the like of which we haven’t seen before. This my friends is the greatest sport ever invented.”

Michael Ennis added: “That is brilliant … He is a genius Cleary, under brutal pressure. I am in shock, I cannot believe it." Matty Johns said after the game: “On a losing team, that is about the greatest clutch play I’ve ever seen in rugby league.”

Nathan Cleary, pictured here nailing a two-point field goal from 45 metres out.
Nathan Cleary nailed a two-point field goal from 45 metres out. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was equally impressed. He said in his post-match press conference: “Yeah, it was pretty good. It’s a shame because he missed one against the Broncos and he got it tonight, but we still didn’t get the win.

"We’re just not getting those close games which add up, and that's a thing we’ll look back on and be able to improve there. It’s early days, it was good game tonight.

“Some of the numbers tonight, I think they were 95 per cent with the ball and over 1000 kick metres with the ball, which I’ve never seen before. Our boys had 450 tackles and only missed 14, so number-wise, it was an enormous effort by both teams, I hope everyone enjoyed the contest.”

Panthers not panicking despite another loss

The loss marked the third for Penrith by a field goal in the space of a month, starting with their World Club Challenge defeat to St Helens in the pre-season. "It's definitely been different, especially having such a big game, the World Club Challenge, to kick it off," coach Cleary said.

"It's been fine, I've been really happy with the 80 minutes we've been able to put together. There's heaps of stuff that we can improve at and we will but all in all, I think it's a pretty brave team doing their best every week."

Eels coach Brad Arthur said he hoped the win could get his side going after their 0-3 start to the season. "We'll see how we respond to it next week," he said.

"We've had some tough games (to start the year) and we could've won all three of them. We've been victims of our own circumstances. At least tonight we took control of it. If we got beaten tonight, there wasn't much more we could've done footy-wise to try and win it."

with AAP

Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.