Panthers carry record win streak to NRL GF
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said it would be a "dream" to win an NRL premiership with son Nathan after the Panthers defeated South Sydney 20-16 to earn that chance.
On Saturday night, Penrith's magic number emerged with a record-equalling 17-straight win to advance to their first grand final in 17 years.
In a tough preliminary final at ANZ Stadium, the Panthers kept the Rabbitohs at arm's length in front of a crowd of 30,116 - the biggest NRL attendance in Sydney this season.
Their hot streak is the longest on the road to a grand final in NRL history, but for coach Cleary, the job's not done yet.
Another win with son Nathan, against Melbourne on Sunday week, would make the Cleary dream a reality.
"The dream is to win it," coach Cleary said.
"That's the dream.
"I feel extremely happy and you can't win one unless you get in it, so we'll just take time to absorb everything that happened tonight and work out way through the week.
Saturday's match was the third preliminary final in a row for Souths, coming away empty handed on each occasion.
The Panthers led 14-6 at halftime and managed to hold on as star halves Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds tried all they could to keep the Rabbitohs alive.
"It's disappointing. We've been in three straight and lost three so it's never a good feeling losing in these games," Reynolds said.
"It's a challenge in itself to get here and I couldn't be any prouder of our squad.
"I think we did a tremendous job with a number of players out tonight and no one whinged, we just got on with it.
"We'll come back next year and go again."
With Souths trailing by eight points late, Walker shot a ball to the left edge for Corey Allen to expertly toe it through to score and set up an exciting finish.
But the Panthers had done their homework on Wayne Bennett's men and defended bravely.
Halfback Cleary continued his remarkable form with the boot, setting up two tries from kicks for Brian To'o and Tyrone May in the first half.
The first was to draw level with Souths in the eighth minute when he put up a bomb that Alex Johnston couldn't wrangle, knocking on for To'o to clean up and score.
A set play under the posts with a short kick for May to pounce on put the Panthers in the lead in the 28th minute, where they stayed all game.
Lock Isaah Yeo also starred, breaking through the middle of the field to set fullback Dylan Edwards up for the game-sealing try in the 67th minute.
Earlier, livewire Panthers hooker Api Koroisau was taken from the field with a shoulder injury after making a tackle on Reynolds.
He was taken up the tunnel but returned after getting a painkilling shot and is not expected to be in doubt for the grand final against the Storm.
Though there will be concerns for prop James Fisher Harris after he was put on report for a high shot midway through the first half.
The Panthers are set to receive a big boost with second-rower Viliame Kikau to return from suspension for the decider at ANZ Stadium.
Penrith's 17th win in a row is an NRL-era record - matching Canterbury's run in 2002 before they were stripped of all their points for salary cap breaches.
© AAP 2020