Cleary delighted with Penrith’s progress
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary bemoaned another short turnaround ahead of next Saturday’s NRL finals clash with the Sydney Roosters, but was full of praise for his players after securing a top-four finish.
Cleary’s side beat the Warriors 22-6 on Sunday evening to climb above North Queensland and into fourth position on the ladder.
The win also ended the season of Andrew McFadden’s men who could have afforded to lose the game by two points and still knock Brisbane out of the finals places.
However, not for the first time, they failed when it mattered and the Panthers delighted a crowd of 13,551 at Sportingbet Stadium with an excellent display.
Penrith were long odds to finish in the top-four at the start of this season and Cleary said he didn’t set any targets this year apart from another steady season of improvement.
“Eighteen months ago we were everyone’s favourites to finish last and we scratched our way up to 10th spot,” Cleary said.
“The obvious one this year was to try and get in the eight and we’ve done that and I am very proud of the whole club.
“I think it is a pretty big achievement being in the top four with Souths, Roosters and Manly.”
The Roosters beat South Sydney on Thursday and now have nine days to prepare for the game compared to the six afforded to Penrith.
Cleary said his side have used to short turnarounds but admitted it was frustrating.
“The last four times we’ve played top-four teams they’ve had at least nine days to prepare for us,” he said.
“We’ve done it the hard way. But we are pretty match hardened and that will keep us in good stead.
“But we cemented our spot in the eight a few weeks ago and our performances ever since have shown we are happy to test ourselves against the best.
“We’ll be pretty heavy underdogs, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Young fullback Matt Moylan once again showed his quality with another outstanding display to become his team’s best attacking option.
“He’s going really well, he was almost faultless tonight and that is what you want from your fullback in those sort of games,” said Cleary.
“Your back three can get hurt in those games and it was pretty tricky conditions and all the boys did a good job.”
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden accused his players of going down tamely when their season was on the line.
“We didn’t really fire a shot,” he said.
“We had opportunities, we didn’t take them and weren’t good enough. We just weren’t tough enough to get ourselves out of it.”