Otago Daily Times

Pan­thers carry streak into fi­nal

RUGBY LEAGUE

- Sports · Rugby · Rugby League · Sydney · Canberra · Queensland · National Rugby League · Stadium Australia · Cody Walker · Adam Reynolds · Cameron Smith

SYDNEY: Pen­rith ad­vanced to the NRL grand fi­nal with its 20­16 win over South Sydney se­cur­ing a show­down with Mel­bourne next week.

Pen­rith coach Ivan Cleary said it would be a ‘‘dream’’ to win an NRL premier­ship with son Nathan af­ter the Pan­thers de­feated South Sydney 20­16 to earn that chance.

On Satur­day night, Pen­rith’s magic num­ber emerged as it achieved a record­equalling 17th­straight win to ad­vance to its first grand fi­nal in 17 years.

In a tough pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal at ANZ Sta­dium, the Pan­thers kept the Rab­bitohs at arm’s length in front of a crowd of 30,116 — the big­gest NRL at­ten­dance in Sydney this sea­son.

Their hot streak is the long­est on the road to a grand fi­nal in NRL his­tory, but for coach Cleary, the job is not done yet. An­other win with son Nathan, against Mel­bourne on Sun­day week, would make the Cleary dream a re­al­ity.

‘‘The dream is to win

it,’’ coach Cleary said.

‘‘That’s the dream. ‘‘I feel ex­tremely happy and you can’t win one un­less you get in it, so we’ll just take time to ab­sorb ev­ery­thing that hap­pened tonight and work our way through the week. Can’t wait.’’

Satur­day’s match was the third pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal in a row in which Souths had come away empty­handed.

The Pan­thers led 14­6 at half­time and man­aged to hold on as star halves Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds tried all they could to keep the Rab­bitohs alive.

Mean­while, the guess­ing game over Cameron Smith’s fu­ture will con­tinue for at least an­other week af­ter Mel­bourne over­pow­ered Can­berra 30­10 on Fri­day night.

The ev­er­green Smith

(37) may not have an­nounced whether this sea­son will mark his swan­song but the stage is set for the 19­sea­son vet­eran to have a fairy­tale farewell af­ter the Storm qual­i­fied for its fourth grand fi­nal in five years.

The vic­tory was set­up by a whirl­wind start at Sun­corp Sta­dium.

Half­back Jahrome Hughes was in­spi­ra­tional as Mel­bourne raced to a point a minute 24­0 lead in the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal and the Raiders never re­cov­ered, en­sur­ing their 26­year ti­tle drought con­tin­ues.

Hughes set up three tries as Mel­bourne snapped Can­berra’s five­game win­ning run and sealed its 20th straight win in Queens­land in front of 37,112 fans.

The Raiders came out fir­ing af­ter trail­ing 24­6 at half­time but, in the end, their dream of book­ing back­to­back grand fi­nals came un­stuck at their bo­gey venue Sun­corp Sta­dium where they have not won since 2010. — AAP

 ??  ?? Ivan Cleary
Ivan Cleary

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