NRL: Nathan Cleary's boot had everyone talking as the Panthers lost to the Rabbitohs

Penrith's Nathan Cleary lines up a bomb against the Rabbitohs in Sydney last night. Photo / Getty Images.
Penrith's Nathan Cleary lines up a bomb against the Rabbitohs in Sydney last night. Photo / Getty Images.

Nathan Cleary hasn't even played a full season in the NRL but he's already been touted for higher honours.

The 19-year-old son of new Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has starred for the Penrith Panthers since debuting as the club's halfback last year, and he continues to impress. He plays with a maturity beyond his years but it was a special physical attribute rather than his temperament that had people talking on Friday night as his side lost to South Sydney.

Whenever the Panthers found themselves anywhere near attacking territory on the fifth tackle they invariably threw the ball to Cleary to hoist the ball in the air.

Cleary put up several bombs in the match that seemed like they were in more danger of hitting a NASA satellite than leading to a try. They went miles in the air and were a nightmare for Souths' back three.

Fox Sports commentator Andrew Voss marvelled at how the youngster was sending the ball "into space" and he wasn't alone in his admiration.





At half-time with the score locked at 14-14 Cleary told Channel Nine's Brad Fittler he was "pretty good mates" with Souths winger Braidon Burns, who was copping the brunt of his massive bombs.

"Is that why you're just ploughing him with those kicks?" Fittler asked.
"Yeah just testing him out," Cleary replied.

It wasn't just in general play where the playmaker's boot proved a potent weapon for the home side. Down 20-14 with a five minutes to play Michael Oldfield crossed in the corner and Cleary converted from out wide to level it up at 20 apiece.

However, Penrith fans couldn't celebrate for long. Their side gave away a penalty in the 79th minute, allowing the Bunnies to march upfield before Adam Reynolds slotted a field goal to hand the visitors a dramatic 21-20 win.

Five-eighth Cody Walker was among the visitors' best at Pepper Stadium, scoring a crucial try before half-time and setting up his halves partner Reynolds soon after resumption.
A depleted Panthers outfit failed to make up for the absence of Matt Moylan, Peta Hiku and Waqa Blake on club-imposed bans.

Souths jumped out to an 8-0 lead on the back of Sam Burgess' opening try, only for the Panthers to steal the momentum with two tries of their own. First debutant Malakai Watene-Zelezniak set one up for younger brother Dallin before fellow rookie Corey Harawira-Naera latched onto a Cleary pass soon after.

But Walker turned the game single-handedly in a 10-minue period bridging the first and second halves, which began when he combined with John Sutton on a run-around play in the 36th minute.

The classy five-eighth then gave his team the ascendancy when he stepped past a number of defenders and found a straightening Reynolds soon after the break.
Penrith had a handful of opportunities to lock up the scores but was frustrated by a desperate defence.

The loss for the Panthers, who were also without the injured Bryce Cartwright and Tyrone Peachey, leaves them outside the top eight with just two wins from their opening six games.

- news.com.au

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