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Penrith Panthers coach Anthony Griffin has confirmed star playmaker Nathan Cleary will return from injury next week against the Wests Tigers.

"He [Cleary] finished off his rehab today and had a tough session this morning down at Penrith and he'll re-join the team tomorrow," Griffin said.

"It's good to get Nathan back and Tyrone [Phillips] may play his first game in the NSW Cup on Sunday and [Jack] Hetherington will be back after suspension.

"So it will be a nice change having three or four back rather than what we have been going through over the past three or four weeks."

Griffin put Friday night's 29-18 win over the Newcastle Knights down to his side's defensive performance.

Leading 18-6 at halftime, the visitors had to absorb nearly seven minutes of defending on their own line, in which they only conceded one try, before regaining momentum.

"It went a long way to us winning the game, the defensive effort early in the second half," Griffin said.

Match Highlights: Knights v Panthers - Round 10, 2018

"I think at one stage they had 10-12 sets to our one or two, and our start obviously put us in a good position, but that period just held them off long enough."

Peter Wallace commended his side's effort given the cold and windy conditions.

"It [the defensive period] allowed us to take stock, and we got a bit of possession late in the half and set us up for a good win," the hooker said.

He gave a special mention to prop Trent Merrin who played just days after surgery on a fractured finger. Merrin's night included 16 hit-ups and 24 tackles in 54 minutes of work.

"It was a big effort for Mez to play this week," Wallace said.

"Everyone saw his finger last week, and he only got operated on, on Sunday, so to play 4-5 days later is a really big effort."

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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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