Cleary makes history as Panthers beat gritty Broncos
Nathan Cleary reigned supreme to become the youngest player to notch 1300 points in premiership history in Penrith's 15-4 win over a resilient Brisbane outfit.
The victory took the defending premiers to the top of the table and on track to give themselves a red-hot crack at winning three titles in a row.
The only sour note for the Panthers on Thursday came when five-eighth Jarome Luai pushed touch judge Chris Sutton in the back when winger Sunia Turuva scored in the corner in the first-half.
Luai was quick to apologise but players are not allowed to touch officials and the incident may come under scrutiny from the match review committee.
"Romy (Luai) mentioned it to me straight after the game and he said he didn't realise it was the touchie…and then apologised straight after," Nathan Cleary said.
Panthers half Cleary controlled the game and scored a crucial second-half try when he dummied and went himself at Suncorp Stadium in front of 33,343 fans.
That try took him to 1300 points.
Former Manly fullback Graham Eadie reached the mark at the age of 25 years and 246 days in 1979 while Cleary is 25 years and 185 days.
"I just found out about (the record) in the sheds after the game and it's pretty cool, but to be honest it feels like I am really just getting started," Nathan Cleary said.
The Broncos were playing without injured captain Adam Reynolds and it was their last-tackle plays that let them down at times despite replacement Jock Madden having a solid match. Cleary was the difference.
The Panthers are now on 16 points and equal with the Broncos and South Sydney, but with a superior for and against. The Rabbitohs have the chance to take the outright lead when they host Parramatta on Friday night.
A bizarre moment occurred in the 63rd minute with the Broncos trailing 14-4.
Bunker official Ashley Klein cleared contact by Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh on Penrith centre Tyrone Peachey before what appeared to be a try to Kotoni Staggs from a bomb.
But on-field referee Adam Gee, who had ruled no try on-field, then said: "It doesn't look right to me Ash."
Klein looked at it again and ruled Walsh had illegally contacted Peachey. It was the right decision in the end but an unusual way to get to it.
"I thought it was a try - you win some and you lose some" Broncos coach Kevin Walters said.
"We are not having a lot of joy with some decisions at the moment."
The Broncos' scrambling defence was on song in the first half as the Panthers had three tries disallowed. One was the result of a desperate tackle by Broncos second-rower Kurt Capewell on Moses Leota when he jolted the ball free when the Panthers prop was over the line.
A bellringer by Panthers centre Stephen Crichton on Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam rocked the stadium.
It was typical of the relentless Panthers defence that shut the Broncos out.
Since the loss to the Wests Tigers a month ago the Panthers have hit top gear with wins over the Warriors, Roosters and Broncos.
"I thought we responded really well (to the Tigers loss)…and we've beaten some really good teams," coach Ivan Cleary said.
Crichton enhanced his chances of being retained by NSW for the State of Origin series while fullback Dylan Edwards edged closer to a Blues debut after another stunner.
Panthers prop James Fisher-Harris was put on report for a dangerous tackle on Staggs.