NRL: Raiders upstage Panthers 20-10

It was another tough 80 minutes in the coach’s box for Ivan Cleary.
Nanjing Night Net

The Penrith Panthers head coach admitted his side was down on luck and skill as they let slip a 6-0 lead at half time to fall 20-10 to the Canberra Raiders at Centrebet Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Despite winger Josh Mansour bagging a try in just the fourth minute, the Panthers were unable to consolidate a lead as the Raiders capitalised on Penrith’s lacklustre defence and often disorganised attack.

”I mean you can look at it a couple of ways,” Cleary said.

”The tries they [the Raiders] scored were, just, there was a little bit of luck involved in those.

”But we had a lot of opportunities, a lot of half chances that we probably got a bit excited and in the end it’s just a game that you sort of feel like slipped away a bit.

”We’ve had a few like that this year so that’s something we’re going to have to improve on.”

Arguably the most contentious moment in the game was when Canberra centre Jarrod Croker pounced on a try in the 46th minute and levelled the scores at 6-all.

It was unclear whether Croker had tapped the air-borne ball forward before grounding it but the video referee awarded him a benefit of the doubt try- a decision Cleary strongly disagreed with.

”He must be looking at something different to me, that’s how I would say it,” Cleary said.

”I actually thought it was just a no-brainer and I reckon if you look at Jarrod Croker’s body language after he grounded it… that often gives a good indication.

”I might be wrong but a lot of the players out there would have been expecting a red light to come up, but that’s life, that’s what happens and I guess it was one of those days in a sense.”

Panthers’ captain Kevin Kingston denied the controversial call soured the players spirits or hunger for a victory.

”We saw the green light go up but we just got on with the job really quickly,” he said.

”We flushed it straight away.”

Yet the Panthers were unable to fire up following the try and two Canberra four-pointers followed, one to Josh McCrone in the 54th minute and another to Joe Picker in the 59th.

A Raiders penalty goal blew the Panthers’ deficit out to 20-6 late in the second half before fullback Michael Gordon sped over for a try in the 75th minute to leave the home side trailing 20-10 at full-time.

Gordon was playing just his third game for the Panthers since returning from a leg injury sustained in round one and Cleary said he was impressed with the Sharks-bound flyer’s performance.

”Certainly in that first half, every time he got the ball he looked dangerous,” Cleary said.

”That was a good confidence boost for him.”

Just seven for-and-against points now separate the Panthers from the last-placed Parramatta Eels on the competition ladder and Cleary said the side would be working to avoid the wooden spoon throughout the last three weeks of the regular season.

”No one really wants it,” he said.

”But you finish the season the way you deserve so we’ve got three games to go and just looking to improve each week and where we finish, well that’s where we finish.”

Kingston insisted the Panthers playing group would be doing their utmost to avoid the dreaded and unwanted ownership of the 2012 wooden spoon.

”Oh, without a doubt,” he said.

”We won’t speak about it too much but we’ll just get on with the job that we know we’ve got to do.”

The Panthers take to the field for their round 24 clash against the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium next Sunday. Kick off is 12pm.

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