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Opinion

NRL grand final player ratings: Penrith Panthers

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25th October, 2020
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Penrith may have made a game of the 2020 NRL grand final late, but they were comprehensively blown away in the first half and took far too long to get their act together.

Who can hold their head up high? Who had a shocker? Here’s every Panthers player rated.

Dylan Edwards: 7/10
Was one of a very small group of Penrith players who could hold their head high coming into halftime. Had a team-high 165 running metres and 118 kick return metres, but wasn’t nearly as good defensively.

Just one of the four tackles he attempted was effective, with two outright missed, and he made three errors – including an absolutely crucial knock-on inside the last five minutes.

Josh Mansour: 7
Missed a few tackles and was very, very lucky Suliasi Vunivalu bobbled the grounding on a potential try in the second half – the Fijian winger breezed past him way too easily off the grubber. Vunivalu didn’t score, however, and Mansour managed a respectable 157 running metres before scoring a late try to give the Panthers life.

Stephen Crichton: 8
One of the better performers in the Penrith backline. Racked up 129 running metres, was solid in defence and scored a good try in the second half to really kick start the Panther revival. However, he did give away the obstruction penalty that saw Mansour’s first-half try called back.

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Tyrone May: 3
Didn’t do enough to justify being moved into the run-on side just before kick-off. Was guilty of an infringement in the early going that saw Melbourne awarded a penalty try, threw a really bad forward pass inside Penrith’s defensive half and provided less resistance than a turnstile to Ryan Papenhuyzen on what ultimately proved to be the decisive try.

Brian To’o: 7
He may have been the beneficiary of a head-scratching Bunker blunder, but he’d played well up until that point and earned his good fortune, in a sense. Collected 114 running metres to go with his try, was accountable in defence and didn’t have a handling error – a rarity in the Penrith camp.

Jarome Luai: 5
Didn’t call his name enough tonight – capped off an otherwise promising season with a disappointing grand final display. Just the 58 metres for the newly-minted New South Wales five-eighth candidate, while he made a huge mistake late in the game with a high bomb into the Melbourne in-goal to gift the Storm a 20-metre restart.

Nathan Cleary: 7
He improved in the second half and scored a try off the back of a superb solo effort at the death, but his night will ultimately be best remembered for the terrible pass he threw in the first half that led to Suliasi Vunivalu’s try. Pinning the loss on Cleary would be grossly unfair, but it really was the moment the Panthers went from being behind to being in real trouble. Was rushed by the Melbourne defence effectively all night too and didn’t have anywhere near as good a game with the boot as he normally does.

Nathan Cleary in action against the Melbourne Storm

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

James Tamou: 8
The Panthers skipper was solid all night and left almost nothing on the park. Was the only player to finish with a perfect tackle efficiency – 23/23 – and also made no errors while adding 78 metres on the ground. Not a spectacular outing, but was resolute and consistent when his teammates were floundering.

Apisai Koroisau: 8
Deserves a lot of credit for his strong work without the ball, laying a team-high 51 tackles. Had a couple of errors with the ball early, but recovered in the second half and was a lot more reliable from there.

James Fisher-Harris: 5
Ended up on report after a totally unnecessary late hit that gifted Melbourne a penalty goal when Penrith were already down 8-0 – you can’t do that. Was ineffective running the ball all night, but did save some face with a good tackling performance.

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Viliame Kikau: 4
Was on track to receive a zero before recovering at the death to at least add some respectability to his evening. Simply tried to do too much and, as a result, committed a game-high five errors, while also missing an equal team-high four tackles. Seemed to have the anti-Midas touch, but played out of his skin at the death.

Viliame Kikau of the Panthers looks on

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Liam Martin: 6
Just the 71 metres for the second-rower despite spending 70 minutes on the field. Wasn’t the only Penrith forward to have a disappointing evening, but he was one of the most prolific.

Isaah Yeo: 8
Unlike the rest of the forward pack, was consistent all night and can go home knowing he tried his best. Bullocked forward all night and was hard to bring down, was near-perfect when tackling and set up Penrith’s first try with a kick to Brian To’o – although it should’ve been called back by the Bunker.

Brent Naden: 6
Was far better than Tyrone May in attack when brought onto the field, just wasn’t given enough time to really have an impact. Put up 76 metres, three tackle breaks and line break assist in just over half an hour’s work, but also gave away some unnecessary penalties.

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Kurt Capewell: 5
Had limited game time off the bench and, while he didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t really do much at all. Just the 30 metres off five runs in 23 minutes on the field.

Moses Leota: 4
Another forward who limited game time – but Leota did have an impact. Unfortunately, it was negative. Was guilty of two errors, but the crucial one was knock-on early in the second half that he insisted Cleary challenge. He did, and replays showed it was a clear knock-on. Papenhuyzen scored the eventual match-winning try off that scrum.

Zane Tetevano: 5
Only had the 19 minutes on the field to make his mark on the game, finishing with just 26 metres. He also missed two tackles and laid two ineffective ones too – not the best cameo off the bench.

Written by Daniel Jeffrey and Stirling Coates