AAP Rugby

Panthers’ Cleary era starts with loss

By AAP Newswire

It was a case of new year, new coach but same problems for Penrith as Parramatta capitalised on the Panthers' lacklustre start to win their opening round NRL clash.

The Eels jumped out to a 14-0 lead on Sunday at Panthers Stadium, but unlike last year, there would be no comeback from the mountain men as they fell 20-12 in Ivan Cleary's first game in charge.

In their 2018 opening round match, the Panthers on six occasions trailed their opponents by 10 points or more before storming home.

Their sluggish starts contributed to Cleary's predecessor, Anthony Griffin, getting sacked.

At the time, Panthers general manager Phil Gould said: "I've lost count of the number of times we've been 14-0,18-0, 26-0, 32-0 behind before mounting a comeback. You're not going to win premierships doing that."

Cleary said he was aware of the statistic but didn't believe they were guilty of being slow out of the gates.

"I tried to address it," Cleary said.

"I thought the start wasn't too bad.

"The opening 10 minutes was to and fro and then we just had three or four errors inside the first two tackles. That's what led to a couple of tries."

The home side had a chance to win the game in the final 20 minutes, running in two tries with Michael Jennings in the sin-bin, however the former Panther scored to seal the match.

Cleary also denied that the club's tumultuous off-season, which has included the release of several sex tapes involving players and utility Tyrone May being stood down, had played a part in the result.

"Our off-season has been really good," Cleary said.

"We had an issue for a period of about a week. For the most part I've been really happy with how it's gone."

In the day's late game, Canberra were dominant in the wet against the Gold Coast, blanking the home side at Cbus Super Stadium, 21-0.

On Saturday, North Queensland kicked off the post-Johnathan Thurston era with a 24-12 win over St George Illawarra with Jason Taumalolo starring with a 301 metre effort.

Veteran Robbie Farah ran in two tries to lead the Wests Tigers to an encouraging 20-6 win to put a dampener on Des Hasler's return to Manly.

The Warriors sent a message to the rest of the competition that they are still going to be a force to be reckoned with, even with the loss of Shaun Johnson, with a 40-6 demolition of Canterbury.

A Sam Burgess-inspired South Sydney got Wayne Bennett's tenure off to a winning start with a 26-16 victory over defending premiers the Sydney Roosters.

Edrick Lee had a hand in almost everything, including the game-winning 85m intercept try, to lead Newcastle to a 14-8 upset of Cronulla.

The season kicked off on Thursday with Melbourne dominating Brisbane with a 22-12 win.