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Copping it sweet: Cleary unfazed by spray from fans

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary claimed he "didn't really notice" a barrage of verbal abuse directed towards him and star son Nathan from a hostile Leichhardt Oval crowd on Friday night.

Cleary senior copped a massive spray from the diehard Wests Tigers faithful in the dying stages of the Panthers' 26-6 loss that ended their 12-game winning streak.

Tigers forward Luciano Leilua's penalty try in the 66th minute was the catalyst for the crowd to begin gesturing towards Cleary in the coach's box, while many also blew kisses.

The crowd then began chanting towards Cleary, who didn't want to add any fuel to the fire post-match.

"I didn't really notice," Cleary quipped.

Cleary left the joint venture abruptly in 2018 to return to Penrith and coach his son, who also copped some stick from fans while watching the game from the sideline with the Panthers' other Blues representatives.

Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Panthers

The NSW halfback walked up the tunnel before full-time but returned to the field once the crowd left the venue to greet former Panthers captain James Tamou.

It capped a difficult evening for the previously unbeaten Panthers, who struggled to get into the match without seven of their top-line stars against a near-strength Wests Tigers side.

Leilua's four-pointer in the 65th minute essentially took the wind out of the sails for the visitors, who had done well to stay within six points at that stage with a makeshift side. 

"The thing I was a little bit worried about was cohesion in attack and that's how it turned out," Cleary said.

Burton takes matters into his own hand

"Our end of sets were not good. It was a stop-start game and we couldn't build any pressure.

"It played into their hands a fair bit. The game has really changed in the last 3-4 weeks where there's a lot of set starts that weren't there before. Sometimes it can help and sometimes it can hinder.

"It hindered us a bit tonight. We didn't get it quite right at the start of the game. We didn't build a game capable of winning an NRL game."

Cleary said he'll wait and see how the Origin players get through next Wednesday's series opener before deciding if any back up against the Sharks 48 hours later.

Despite the result, he expects the competition leaders to be better for the experience.

"Oh yeah, we had two training sessions and if you take eight of your best players out which is pretty much the whole steering wheel and gearbox, it's going to be difficult," he said.

"But we thought we'd do better and I expected them to do better. It'll help to have that game under our belts for the games coming up where we're missing some people."

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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