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Panthers called out over 'dreadful' scenes amid World Club Challenge controversy

Penrith appeared to be dudded by some contentious calls against Wigan, but did they play well enough to win?

Penrith Panthers players, pictured here after their loss in the World Club Challenge to Wigan.
Penrith Panthers players look on after their loss in the World Club Challenge to Wigan. Image: AAP/Getty

It's hard to deny the Panthers were dudded by some pretty questionable calls in their World Club Challenge loss to Wigan. But the undeniable truth is they didn't play well enough to win and probably didn't deserve the victory.

A controversial try awarded to Jake Wardle in the second half was widely condemned in Australia, with many questioning how the referee could send it upstairs as a try considering he looked well short of the line. The Panthers weren't afforded the same courtesy when Taylan May crashed over at the death, with the video referee upholding the on-field call of no try because of inconclusive evidence.

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While many argued the Panthers were robbed of what would have been their first World Club Challenge title in team history, the players and staff will be the first to admit they simply weren't good enough against a Wigan team who appeared to want it more. The Panthers had the majority of possession (53 percent to Wigan's 47) and had numerous attacking raids on the line turned away.

For all the possession and opportunity, the three-time defending NRL champions could only produce 12 points. "That's the thing about this particular competition, we get to see the best teams together, and Wigan were too good tonight," Nathan Cleary told broadcaster Sky Sports.

"We didn't execute as well as they did. They had three opportunities and scored three tries and that was the difference. They executed better than us and maybe that was enough."

The Wigan Warriors, pictured here with the World Club Challenge trophy.
The Wigan Warriors celebrate with the World Club Challenge trophy. (Getty Images)

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Penrith coach Ivan Cleary also highlighted the fact that Wigan scored every time they were given a chance at the Panthers' end. “Our attack was a little clunky at times, which is not surprising, the first game of the season and quite a few different combinations as well," he said.

“In three trips in our end, they scored three tries, which is something we don’t pride ourselves on. They took their chances and we didn’t and congratulations to Wigan for doing that.”

The lack of cohesion is understandable for the Panthers considering the NRL is still in the pre-season, while Wigan are in the middle of the Super League season and fully match-fit. Nevertheless, the Panthers will be licking their wounds after going down 13-12 in the corresponding fixture against St Helens at Penrith Stadium last year.

"The top three or four Super League teams are great sides with great players, so we look at the challenge of playing in Wigan as an opportunity to do something special," Nathan Cleary said before the game. "Losing to Saints still hurts, but we're lucky enough to get the chance of redemption. As a club, we haven't won the World Club Challenge, so that's another thing we want to do, get the final trophy in the cabinet.

"I have fond memories of being over here and winning the World Cup (at Old Trafford in neighbouring Manchester), and although I'm back with a different team there's the same desire and drive. It's a great challenge but also a great opportunity and the end goal would be special."

Unfortunately for Cleary and the Panthers, that goal will have to be shelved for another 12 months at least. Despite the sense that Wigan got a leg-up from the referees, there was an overwhelming feeling amongst fans that the all-conquering Panthers simply weren't goo enough on Saturday.

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