Crazy week ends for the Clearys
Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary saw the lighter side to son Nathan slotting a decisive sideline conversion against his own team right in front of him with six minutes left on the clock.
The Panthers broke a lacklustre period from both sides in the second half on Sunday to break away from the visitors who were up for the challenge of spoiling the party at Pepper Stadium.
There stood Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary on the western touchline right under the nose of Ivan, nailing a conversion to ensure the visitors would have to score twice in the final stages for any chance of a shock upset.
“He doesn’t understand the consequences of that just yet,” Ivan joked post-game.
“I’ve never wanted him to miss a goal but wanted him to miss a few today.”
With so much build-up in a historical moment for the Cleary family and rugby league, both men were relieved it was over.
Albeit until next season.
“It was certainly different and a bit strange at times. I’m glad it’s over in one sense but I guess I’ll have to do it a couple more times yet,” Ivan said.
“I actually didn’t watch him that much, normally I would but I was watching out boys. I noticed we put a lot of pressure on him so that was good and got a few good results on the last tackle through our defence.”
Nathan agreed but said when the game finally kicked off it was business as usual.
“It was a long week and just kept hanging around,” he said.
“[But] once I was out there it was normal. As the week went on it was normal. I think he was devastated about that [conversion] but it was just one of those things.”
With the family reunion now set aside Ivan insisted the development of his side was continuing, however was disappointed with his team’s last-tackle options and crucial errors.
“I think it’s been going on for six weeks, the difference in the side now compared to eight weeks ago is enormous,” the Tigers coach said.
“[The halves] showing signs but our kicking game is not at a level where it needs to be. They’re both capable but not getting results on the last tackles. That’s a work in progress.
“[But] we have got a bit of rhythm and are learning things along the way.”
Wests Tigers skipper Aaron Woods has felt the change since Cleary came on board and re-iterated the future was bright for the joint venture.
“The club is in good stead with Ivan and things are looking a lot better, it just wasn’t our day,” Woods said.
“I thought we were coming home strong but just turned over the pill at crucial times. I dropped one and we lost one off the scrum that let the Panthers off the hook.”
While the Panthers weren’t at their best, Woods believes they’ll be a threat if they finish the season in the Telstra Premiership top eight over the next four weeks.
“You wouldn’t want to play them on their day because they can beat anybody,” he said.
“If they do make the eight they’ll give it a shake.”
This article first appeared on NRL.com.
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