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It wasn't just Nathan Cleary's lifting tackle that sparked controversy in Penrith's preliminary final victory over the Melbourne Storm.
Eagle-eyed NRL fans have accused the Panthers halfback of cheating over his conversion of a Brian To'o try in the second half of Sunday's clash.
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Panthers winger To'o touched down in the corner for Penrith's second try of the match, putting the ball down within a metre of the sideline.
Cleary then missed the conversion to keep the score at 10-0, however fans noticed something very peculiar about where he took the kick from.
Despite the try being scored right in the corner, Cleary placed the ball about 10 metres in from the sideline for the shot at goal.
Inexplicably, officials failed to notice and Cleary was allowed to take the kick from much closer than he should have.
“This is a little in," Andrew Voss said in commentary for Fox Sports.
“To’o put the ball down a metre in from touch. I thought Nathan might have crept in a little closer with the shot.”
Veteran journalist Phil Rothfield responded to the furore on Twitter, writing: "This is outrageous".
Fans were also left fuming, with some amounting Cleary's actions to cheating.
The try is scored less than a meter from the touch line, but look where Nathan Cleary takes the conversion, Lucy it missed otherwise it could have been a talking point pic.twitter.com/hgnaTJuu1N
— Denis Mcgrorey (@denis_mcgrorey) September 25, 2021
Ridiculous, and happens on a weekly basis. Surprised it hasn't caused a major controversy yet tbh
— sincsincsinc (@sincsincsinc555) September 25, 2021
25,000 fine incoming please.
— Smithy (@Matt_Smith7777) September 25, 2021
The fact that he missed the attempt doesn’t negate the fact that Cleary tried to cheat and the touch judge allowed it to happen. 2 weeks in a row touchies have allowed Penrith to bend the rules to suit themselves. Maybe Bennett was right, Ivan still has friends in the refs
— OldDaveEEL (@eel_old) September 25, 2021
3/3 even the fiasco of Luai and Cleary being allowed back on the field after they were knocked out tells me something is really wrong and it has NRL backing. Luai admitted he had passed out. I just wanted to be able to watch a fair Grand Final and that wont happen.
— Maureen Doyle (@Maureendoyle52) September 25, 2021
Nathan Cleary free to play in NRL grand final
Cleary is free to play in the NRL grand final against South Sydney after he escaped charge for a dangerous throw on Kenny Bromwich.
Cleary was put on report in the Panthers' 10-6 win over Melbourne and faced the prospect of being banned for the decider if he copped a grade-two charge.
However, Penrith's worst fears were alleviated on Sunday morning with Cleary not even appearing on the charge sheet.
Winger Stephen Crichton (contrary conduct) and prop James Fisher-Harris (dangerous contact) were both cited, but can accept fines.
Fisher-Harris' charge is of note for slamming Felise Kaufusi down late in the first half, after it forced an error but did not attract a penalty.
Instead, Melbourne hooker Harry Grant is the only man facing a one-game ban out of the match, for a crusher tackle that will see him miss round one.
It comes after both Cleary and his father Ivan played down the severity of his lifting tackle on Saturday night.
"There's always a bit of stuff around that ... it's just another story I guess," Nathan Cleary said about his report.
"I'd rather not (face the judiciary) but we'll see."
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