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Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary is facing a lengthy stint on the sidelines after a 'disgraceful' spear tackle that saw him receive a straight send off during the Panther's 34-10 loss to the Eels.
The opening stanza between the Panthers and the Eels was played at NRL finals level intensity with Parramatta 12-4 up after 18 minutes.
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However, Penrith's hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed after a moment of madness from the NSW halfback.
Cleary was sent off for a spear tackle on Eels playmaker Dylan Brown as he put his hands between the five-eighth's legs and lifted him into the air.
Brown came crashing down on his neck and shoulders, which prompted Cleary to immediately apologise as players came rushing in.
“Oh my goodness there is a problem,” Fox Sports commentator Dan Ginnane said.
“That’s Dylan Brown that was flipped over like an omelette.
“That is a horrible tackle... thank goodness Brown is OK.”
Brown was fortunately uninjured, however, it didn't save the halfback who was sent to the sheds.
Cleary will await the adjudication of the NRL's match review committee on Saturday morning.
Following the incident there wasn't much sympathy for Cleary with the NRL world adamant he should be facing a minimum four weeks on the sideline for the 'horrible' tackle.
Panthers legend and Fox Sports commentator Greg Alexander was one that had no issue with the send-off.
“I think the refs hands were tied. It was a spear tackle, the bloke ended up on his head,” he said.
“The referee said hands between the legs, which they were, they’re the indicators the refs look for so I think the referee had no other option but to send Nathan.”
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) July 29, 2022
Cleary had to go. Precedent has been set since Lawton was sent off back in Round 8. Naden and Jarrod Wallace were also sent for their lifting tackles, charged with a dangerous throw. The game is intent on stamping out this type of tackle #NRLEelsPanthers #NRL pic.twitter.com/QDdfrmFyTB
— Daniel Watson Hayes™ (@dwatsonhayes) July 29, 2022
— The NRL Tweet (@NRLTweet) July 29, 2022
Great player, clean player, unintentional ... but Cleary had to go
— Dean Ritchie (@BulldogRitchie) July 29, 2022
NATHAN CLEARY SENT OFF!!! Bad lifting tackle on Dylan Brown. Penrith now likely to be without both first choice halves for the next couple of weeks. Huge #NRLEelsPanthers
— Jake Duke (@JakeDuke1) July 29, 2022
The thing with the Cleary tackle is he continued to drive right to the end. I think he’s looking at 4 weeks if charged with a grade 3. Harsh but I think the send off was correct call. Thoughts?
— Peter Psaltis (@peterp79) July 29, 2022
Still can’t believe they sent Nathan Cleary off. He is going to cop the biggest fine for that tackle. #NRLEelsPanthers
— Nathan (@SeaEagleSpur) July 29, 2022
If Dale Finucane got 2 weeks for an accidental head clash, I am excited to see how protected the NRL are going to be of Mr Golden Boy Nathan Cleary for that ugly potentially career ending tackle. @PhilGould15 @PhilRothfield @AndrewVossy @FOXNRL @NRL360
— YeaBuzzz (@YeaBuzzz) July 29, 2022
— KidCowboy🤠 (@Kidcowboy2) July 29, 2022
The judiciary better hand it to Cleary. He could have caused a grave injury with that one. #NRLEelsPanthers
— Stephen (@TheAviator1992) July 29, 2022
Nathan Cleary being sent off just because he made a horrifically dangerous illegal tackle? Surely that’s against the Cleary Rules? #NRLEelsPanthers
— Ben Pobjie (@HartWexford) July 29, 2022
Nathan Cleary facing long stint on sideline
Manly's Karl Lawton was slapped with a four-match ban earlier this year for a lifting challenge and many claimed Cleary should receive a similar punishment.
If he is charged with a grade three dangerous throw, Cleary will face five weeks on the sideline due to a prior incident earlier in the year.
CLEARY CORRECTION: This would be Nathan Cleary’s SECOND offence. Dangerous contact on Billy Walters earlier this year.
Therefore, (assuming) charged with a grade-two dangerous throw, that’s a three-match ban; a grade-three throw is FIVE matches🐾🐾
— christian nicolussi (@mrchrisnico) July 29, 2022
Penrith coach, and father of Nathan, Ivan Cleary said the young halfback was 'shattered'.
"I think all the boys know if they've been in that position they'd feel the same," said Ivan.
"I don't think he meant to do it. He's done a fair bit for our team over the years.
"I know Nat pretty well and this will fuel his fire for later."
The Panthers are already without five-eighth Jarome Luai and face tough assignments against Canberra, Melbourne, South Sydney, the Warriors and North Queensland.
Much of the attention will shift to Sean O'Sullivan, who will be tasked with guiding the Panthers over the coming weeks.
Following the send-off, the Eels ran riot scoring three tries before half-time.
The Panthers put in a spirited display in the second half only conceding one try, but it was all too much for the 12 men out on the park.
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