2021 NRL Grand Final, Panthers 14 Rabbitohs 12 – Report

Brendan Wood reviews the Penrith Panthers thrilling 14-12 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the 2021 Grand Final. Here’s how the game went.


Penrith Panthers 14

Tries: Matt Burton (17), Stephen Crichton (67)

Goals: Nathan Cleary (19, 32, 69)

South Sydney Rabbitohs 12

Tries: Cody Walker (21) Alex Johnston (75)

Goals: Adam Reynolds (23, 44)

Player of the Year Points

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3 pts – Nathan Cleary (Clive Churchill Medal, Penrith Panthers)
2 pts – Api Koroisau (Penrith Panthers)
1 pt – Cameron Murray (South Sydney Rabbitohs)


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1st Half

The 2021 Grand Final began with both sides setting a frantic pace as they traded sets. The Panthers got the early ascendency as they forced two line drop-outs on the Rabbitohs. After the second drop-out, Mark Nicholls produced a one-on-one strip to relieve pressure for South Sydney.

Despite recovering possession, the Rabbitohs couldn’t execute their last tackle plays well enough to build pressure on the Panthers. It wasn’t long before the Panthers had the Rabbitohs on the back foot again.

After forcing two more line drop-outs, the Panthers found the first try when Matt Burton sliced open the defence to score. In the following set, Jai Arrow spilt the ball in what looked like an error, before the bunker found he was hit high resulting in a penalty.

Off the back of the penalty, the Rabbitohs found some momentum in attack and Cody Walker struck. He fended away from Nathan Cleary, cut through two more defenders, and raced away to score a solo try.

With the scores level after 30 minutes, both sides began to show signs of fatigue. The Rabbitohs were the first to crack as the weight of possession caught up with them. After escaping another raid from the Panthers, they made an error deep in their own half to put themselves under pressure again.

With the Panthers back on the attack, they received a penalty right in front and opted to take the two-points, grabbing back the lead inside the last 10 minutes of the half.

After a frenetic first half, both teams scraped into halftime with the Panthers holding a slim two-point lead at the break.

HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 8 – South Sydney Rabbitohs 6

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2nd Half

Coming out of the break, the Panthers gave away a penalty when Kurt Capewell obstructed the Rabbitohs kick-chase. Within range of the posts, the Rabbitohs took the two points to level the score at 8 all.

In the following set, Jayden Su’a knocked-on early in the set to gift the Panthers field position. However, the Panthers were unable to take advantage as Nathan Cleary threw a forward pass to Viliame Kikau.

There was controversy not long after the close call. Adam Reynolds attempted an attacking kick, however the ball ricocheted off Spencer Leniu in the process of making a tackle. The referee ruled Leniu was making a tackle and did not charge the ball down, so the Panthers were awarded possession.

As both sides tried to settle, the Panthers continued to have the better of the field position, but the Rabbitohs were gallant in defence to keep the scores level.

With the game on a knife’s edge, Cody Walker attempted a long cut-out pass, however Stephen Crichton intercepted the ball. He raced away and scored a crucial try to put the Panthers ahead.

However, South Sydney wouldn’t let the season go without a fight. They received a penalty and went straight on the attack. Again, it was Cody Walker involved. He spread the ball into the hands of Alex Johnston, who scored in the corner. With a kick from the sideline, Adam Reynolds failed to convert to leave the Rabbitohs behind by two.

The intensity lifted as both sides sensed the end was near. The Panthers maintained composure and forced the Rabbitohs to work the ball out of their own end. To their credit, the Rabbitohs managed to get within range of a two-point field goal.

It was a tough ask, with Adam Reynolds unable to find the distance on the kick and the ball rolled dead. This was enough for the Panthers to hold on, winning the game by two and securing their first premiership since 2003.

FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 14 – South Sydney Rabbitohs 12

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Match Review Committee

to be advised

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