Panthers coach Ivan Cleary admitted a Wests Tigers fan had got under his skin after he blew kisses and pointed to the scoreboard as emotions took hold in Saturday night’s match against his former club at Bankwest Stadium.
Cleary said he regretted reacting to the sledging after the Panthers' 19-12 defeat of the Tigers but the fan’s comments had riled him.
“I didn’t like what he said,” said Cleary, who quit the Tigers at the end of the 2018 season to return to Penrith.
“I’m not used to fans I don’t think. It has been a while. It was just an incident that I probably wish I didn’t do anything but I could have done worse. I was probably a little bit emotional too. I am glad I didn’t do what I felt like doing.”
The incident occurred after a feisty encounter between the two teams finished with a melee after Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards was tackled high by Tigers forward Luke Garner as he fielded a kick on the last play of the game.
Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Panthers
Edwards was also taken high without the ball two minutes earlier by Tigers centre Joey Leilua, who was sent to the sin bin. Both Leilua and Garner were placed on report.
“There were two shots straight at the head and he can’t protect himself,” Cleary said of Edwards.
“We want to play by the rules and I thought we handled ourselves in some fiery exchanges pretty well.
“There were a couple of disappointing incidents but it was a tough game, both sides put a lot into it.”
Panthers say emotions clouded Leilua’s judgement
Cleary also accused the Tigers of “spoiling tactics” after Penrith dominated the opening exchanges but was pleased with the way his team clawed their way back from 10-6 down at halftime.
Edwards scored the winning try in the 73rd minute after hooker Api Koroisau raced out of dummy half and broke through the tackles of Matt Eisenhuth and Michael Chee-Kam.
“That was a huge play,” Cleary said. “He didn’t actually run a lot tonight. He has been huge on and off the field since he got here.”
Playmaker Tyrone May made his first NRL appearance since 2018 after being stood down last year by the NRL and serving back-to-back suspensions this season for separate off-field incidents.
May played a utility role from the interchange and Cleary said he would be a valuable addition to the squad.
“I think it is close to two years since he has played first grade. I thought he did well when he came on, he did his job and he is only going to add to our squad,” Cleary said.
“I am really happy to see him back after everything he has been through. It is a good story.”
Winger Brian To’o failed to finish the match after suffering an ankle injury and left Bankwest Stadium on crutches.
Cleary said he was unsure of the severity of the injury.