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Penrith storm home to defeat Broncos in NRL grand final

Penrith has won the 2023 NRL premiership
Penrith players celebrate their record-breaking third successive NRL premiership, with their win over Brisbane coming in thrilling circumstances.

Penrith accomplished one of the most extraordinary comebacks in NRL history on Sunday night at Accor Stadium, Sydney, seizing the grand final victory from the Brisbane Broncos 26-24.

The reigning champions were seemingly on the ropes as Broncos star Ezra Mam delivered a rapid-fire hat trick in the second half. Yet, under the steadfast leadership of Nathan Cleary, the Panthers clawed back, with Cleary himself scoring the decisive winning try and clinching his second Clive Churchill medal.

The game’s momentum initially swayed in favour of Penrith as Mitch Kenny exploited a Broncos’ mishap to register the opening try after a prolonged phase of Panthers’ pressure. Despite Brisbane being cornered in their own 20 in the first half, the Panthers’ domination failed to translate into substantial points. However, Thomas Flegler’s timely intervention before halftime rekindled hope for the Broncos.

Brimming with renewed determination post-interval, Brisbane witnessed Mam’s athletic prowess as he sprinted for the corner, leaving Dylan Edwards of Penrith struggling in his wake. Mam’s agility was on display again shortly after, as he effortlessly evaded tackles from both Cleary and Isaah Yeo to score once more.

Before the Panthers could recalibrate from their 10-point shortfall, Mam delivered yet again, aided by a precise setup from Reece Walsh. Despite the mounting pressure, Penrith remained resilient. Moses Leota’s 62nd-minute score breathed life into the Panthers’ campaign before Stephen Crichton further narrowed the gap with a corner try, leaving them just four points shy of the Broncos.

The relentless onslaught from the Panthers ultimately wore down a fatigued Brisbane side, paving the way for Cleary’s triumphant winning score. Reflecting on the gripping contest, an elated Cleary said his team had managed to stay cool, despite the horror start to the second half.

“This doesn’t even feel real at the moment, feels like a dream,” he said.

“The start of that second half was a nightmare but our mindset was we’re down but never out. That’s up there with Origin [in terms of difficulty] for sure. So much fatigue. Told myself to keep going, keep going, keep fighting and that’s what we do.”

Meanwhile, disheartened Broncos star Adam Reynolds could barely conceal his disappointment.

“Extremely proud but we let that one slip,” he said.

“I can’t fault the team, just lapses of concentration. It’s a tough one to take. Credit to Penrith they were fantastic, led by Nathan Cleary. I’ve got no words, can’t sum that one up.”

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