In a pulsating second half of the grand final, the Panthers were able to turn an 8-6 half time lead into a premiership-winning 14-12 result. Here are 11 key moments that decided a title and helped deliver redemption to Penrith after the heartbreak of 2020.
44th minute: Dylan Edwards runs behind Kurt Capewell on a kick return. The play is well managed by Cameron Murray to draw the penalty but the officials have no choice but to blow the whistle. It is an easy decision for Adam Reynolds to take the two points and tie the game up at 8-all.
Reynolds gets Rabbitohs level with a penalty goal
51st minute: Adam Reynolds attempts to launch an attacking bomb from just inside Penrith's 30, but is put under huge kick pressure from Spencer Leniu. The ball ricochets off the Panther and goes back 10 metres then into touch, with Penrith awarded a handover. Not only is the call 100% correct, Souths also burn their captain's challenge disputing the ruling while also taking a big hit in the field position stakes.
Big hit from Kikau forces a repeat set for Penrith
59th minute: Cleary launches a skyscraper from right on the halfway line. The towering torpedo eventually lands safely with Jaxson Paulo around 18 metres from the Souths line but a brutal and well-timed kick chase from Viliame Kikau jolts the ball free, with Blake Taaffe forced back to his in-goal to retrieve the kick. The Panthers receive their fifth goal-line drop out of the match to heap yet more pressure on the flagging Rabbitohs.
"He kicked South Sydney into submission," Peter Sterling said in Channel 9's coverage of Cleary's pinpoint kicking.
"Grand finals are won by pressure and apart from the missed tackle for Cody Walker's try, he was pretty much faultless.
"You need a cool head and need a No.7 who knows how to handle these situations and I thought he got everything so right tonight."
65th minute: Penrith come up with another huge pressure play when Jarome Luai bombs near the left touchline, again Paulo is forced into an uncomfortable take and this time a strong tackle from Matt Burton flings the winger into touch to hand Penrith a full attacking set.
67th minute: A Tyrone May error quickly ruins the raid for Penrith as Souths again hold on but their reprieve is short-lived. Desperately needing some innovation to get out of their own end where they have been camped for much of the half, they spread the ball left from just inside half and Cody Walker tries for a bit too much on the pass. Stephen Crichton races up for the intercept and streaks away for what turns out to be the game-breaking try with Cleary easily turning four into six.
Crichton picks off a Walker pass and gets the Panthers into the lead
Coach Wayne Bennett launched an impassioned defence of his five-eighth after the game.
"How many tries has he set up this year, how many times have we seen that happen?" Bennett asked.
"I've coached some wonderful players, they’ve all thrown an intercept try from time to time, it's just something that happened and we can't do anything about it now.
"I know how many great plays he's made for us so I wasn't going to condemn him for one moment."
74th minute: Souths somehow conjure a few high-energy sets in both attack and defence back-to-back to get inside Penrith's half, with a scrambling Matt Burton trying for too much in the tackle and penalised for a leg-pull on Jaydn Su'A. It's now or never as Souths eye a rare full set in Penrith's red zone.
75th minute: It takes just three plays for Cody Walker to brush of his earlier disappointment, launching a sweeping left-side raid for Dane Gagai to supply the last pass for Alex Johnston's 30th try of the season – millimetres inside the left-hand touch line.
The lethal left comes up trumps in the Rabbitohs hour of need
76th minute: Departing captain Adam Reynolds, one of the finest goal kickers the game has seen, takes his time lining up the critical conversion. It looks perfect off the boot, starting to the right of the uprights then begins to curl back beautifully, then… stubbornly holds its line, refusing to drift in the final required metre and leaving Souths two points adrift with just over four minutes on the clock and fielding a kick-off deep inside their own half.
"It felt good off the boot," Reynolds later told Triple M.
"I thought it was coming back but it just hung outside that right upright. I aimed it out there to bring it back but it just didn't come back enough."
77th minute: After knock-downs from Kurt Capewell and James Fisher-Harris refresh the tackle count, Cameron Murray, the Rabbitohs' best player on the night, somehow finds the energy to make a clean break through the middle past a lazy effort by Api Koroisau. There is not another red and green jersey in sight however, with Murray unable to evade Dylan Edwards' last-ditch tackle one-on-one.
Bennett lauds Murray after another immense performance
78th minute: Souths reload for another tilt at Penrith's right side defence but the Panthers are ready for it this time. Cleary comes from miles inside and crunches Walker as he looks to create space for his outside men with the ball sailing into touch. The Bunnies claim the ball came off Cleary's hand but have already burned their challenge, though replays suggest a challenge wouldn't have helped.
Reynolds thanks South Sydney faithful after grand final loss
80th minute: A useful final set with the ball gets Souths just within range for one final hail Mary, but Reynolds' all-or-nothing shot at a two-point field goal drops short and Penrith wind down the clock.
“At that time of the game when you’re fatigued and have a groin injury, it was going to be the greatest kick of all time if he hits it,” Blues coach Brad Fittler said on Channel Nine.
“You just haven’t got the power, you’re adjusting, there’s a lot going through your mind."