Penrith Panthers win thrilling NRL grand final

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·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
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The Penrith Panthers (pictured) celebrating after winning the 2021 NRL grand final.
The Penrith Panthers (pictured) won the 2021 NRL grand final after defeating South Sydney Rabbitohs. (Getty Images)

The Panthers have won an enthralling NRL grand final against the South Sydney Rabbitohs after an intercept try from winger Stephen Crichton made amends for last year's grand final heartbreak and ended coach Ivan Cleary's long wait for a title.

The Panthers opened the scoring after Matt Burton crossed the line after some sustained pressure from Penrith in the opening stand.

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But, it was a brilliant solo effort on the 20th minute mark from Cody Walker that had Souths fans on their feet.

Walker received the ball 35m out from the Panthers' line before he straightened up and put a huge fend on Nathan Cleary.

He then burst through the line, before side-stepping an opponent and charging under the posts.

The Panthers dominated territory but were left scampering in the final minutes of Sunday's grand final at Suncorp Stadium to ensure Souths didn't steal a win in captain Adam Reynolds and coach Wayne Bennett's final game for the club.

Souths had been tackled just once inside Penrith's 20-metre zone but were hanging on, with the scores locked at 8-8 with 13 minutes to play as Penrith squandered chances.

The wall finally burst though, with Walker's all-or-nothing cut out pass intercepted by Panthers winger Crichton who ran 35 metres to score and create a six-point lead.

Nathan Cleary and Scott Sorensen (pictured) embrace after winning the 2021 NRL Grand Final.
Nathan Cleary and Scott Sorensen of the Panthers celebrate winning the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

However, the Rabbitohs weren't done yet.

Walker made amends and put Alex Johnston over for a record-breaking 30th try of the season to get within two points.

But Reynolds' sideline conversion attempt flew just outside the right post.

Walker then threw a pass over the sideline with just over two minutes to go as a possible Johnston match-winner went begging, before Reynold's two-point field goal attempt fell well short of the uprights.

Wayne Bennett and Rabbitohs fall short

It was only Bennett's second loss in his 10th grand final as a coach, his appearances now stretching across five decades with four different clubs.

Penrith's third title was a breakthrough for Bennett's Penrith counterpart Cleary in his 370th game as a coach, becoming the only man to win one for the first time after their 250th game.

The Panthers' victory comes after a 17-game winning streak was brutally snapped by Melbourne in last year's grand final, the Storm romping to a 22-0 halftime lead in that boil-over.

There was no such shell-shock on Sunday night, Penrith clean with the ball and playmaker Nathan Cleary calmly directing traffic.

Adam Reynolds (pictured) looks dejected during the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia.
Adam Reynolds (pictured) looks dejected during the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Penrith simply thundered through Souths in the first half, making 1070 metres to Souths' 632.

They averaged almost 20 metres per set more than Wayne Bennett's side, despite the Rabbitohs making 29 tackle breaks to 15

A COVID-19-capped capacity 39,322 were in Suncorp Stadium for Brisbane's first grand final after the full house was restricted to 75 per cent midweek.

with AAP

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