Young Panther puts name in record books

MILESTONE: Penrith Panthers' Nathan Cleary (right) celebrates with Dylan Edwards  after scoring a try  against Canberra Raiders yesterday.
MILESTONE: Penrith Panthers' Nathan Cleary (right) celebrates with Dylan Edwards after scoring a try against Canberra Raiders yesterday. Matt King

YOUNG Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary has broken a 43-year-old record in his side's 26-22 win yesterday, ending Canberra's finals hopes.

Cleary needed eight points to break Manly legend Graham Eadie's record to be the youngest player in premiership history to score 200 points in a season.

The 19-year-old did it in classy fashion, backing up a Waqa Blake line break to finish a 70-metre effort.

Cleary had a wonderful first half, capped off with his ninth try of the season.

And along with faultless goalkicking - five from five - his kicking in general play was superb, constantly leaving the Raiders struggling out of their own end.

Canberra rallied in the second half after a 10-point deficit at half-time and took the lead at the three-quarter mark, but a final try to Panthers rookie Tyrone May landed the killer blow.

The Panthers have cemented a top-eight spot, while the Raiders will miss the finals.

The Raiders got their day off to a horror start when a Joseph Tapine error led to the Panthers scoring first points through Waqa Blake.

Minutes later they were under the pump again after Nick Cotric dropped a bomb, and the Panthers extended their lead in the following set thanks to a Cleary penalty goal.

The Green Machine came to life when Cotric dived over in the corner after some hot potato footy from Blake Austin and Jack Wighton.

In the 25th minute Blake showed up Jarrod Croker to race down the sideline and put Cleary over for his record-breaking 200th point.

A terrific offload from big Dave Taylor put Josh Papalii over in the 34th minute to pull Penrith's lead back to 14-10.

Moments before the break the Panthers made it 20-10 following two huge runs from Josh Mansour.

The final moments were frantic, but the visitors hung on for a well-deserved victory.

John Dean

Topics:  canberra raiders nathan cleary penrith panthers

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