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Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Nathan Cleary won the family battles as the Panthers fought hard for a 28-14 victory over the Wests Tigers at Pepper Stadium.

Panthers into top eight

It's taken 22 weeks but the Panthers have finally broken into the Telstra Premiership top eight after being dubbed premiership favourites at the start of the season. 

St George Illawarra's fortnight of shock losses have helped Anthony Griffin's men significantly, with the Panthers having crunch matches with the Cowboys, Dragons and Sea Eagles to come.

"The season is only just starting now with a month to go," Griffin said post-game. 

"Every team has got to find another gear now. A lot of teams have lost five in a row at the start of season. We never lost belief but there is a hell of a long way to go." 

Scoreline not a fair reflection

Make no mistake, Penrith's 14-point win wasn't looking convincing with six minutes remaining until two late tries sealed the game.

The Panthers were scrappy with a 64 per cent completion rate and looked rushed in attack, while the Wests Tigers hung in for majority of the game but lacked polish in the clutch period of the encounter. 

"It was a tough old game," Griffin said.

"Our defensive line was good and we limited their opportunities and built enough pressure on at the back end."

Kicking games need improvement

Both coaches were critical of their side's final play options with both halves pairings lacking the finishing touches to the end of sets.

Two of the Wests Tigers' tries came from poor kick choices from the Panthers. 

"I do have a concern there, it was just messy," Griffin said.

"They're a tough team with good individuals that can make you pay if you're messy on the last play and we found that out today. 

"We've got to nail that down before next week."

Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary was just as critical towards his halves in Luke Brooks and Tui Lolohea. 

"They're showing signs but our kicking game is not at a level where it needs to be," Cleary said. 

"They're both capable but not getting results on the last tackles. That's a work in progress."

Dallin and Nathan win family battle

A week-long build-up of who will reign supreme in the battle of the families came to a close with Penrith duo Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Nathan Cleary claiming bragging rights.

Dallin came up with two tries in spectacular fashion after Waqa Blake drew in Malakai Watene-Zelezniak on two occasions, while Cleary converted a crucial late sideline conversion right in front of dad Ivan's coaches box.

"He doesn't understand the consequences of that just yet," Ivan joked.

"I've never wanted him to miss a goal but wanted him to miss a few today. I'm glad it's over in one sense but I guess I'll have to do it a couple more times yet.

"I actually didn't watch him that much, we put a lot of pressure on him which was good."

Local talent driving Panthers

Penrith's final two tries were set up by a couple of their most inexperienced players in Tyrone May and Corey Harawira-Naera, symbolising the strength in the club's depth in 2017.

An incredible 13 of the 17 Penrith players that took the field on Sunday have come through the club's Holden Cup system, while Josh Mansour made his NRL debut at the club in 2012. 

"We're proud of the club. It was Nathan last year and now it's Dylan, Tyrone and Corey," Griffin said. 

"Whenever they've been given a jersey and been the next man up to do a job they've done it. We're building our own depth internally."


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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