Mitch Kenny has scored the most unlikely of opening tries after Broncos centre Herbie Farnworth batted back a short dropout and it fell into the bread basket of the Penrith hooker.
Penrith lead the 8-0 after 30 minutes.
Brisbane skipper Adam Reynolds appears to have injured his groin in an innocuous tackle 25th minute, but he’s staying on the field for now.
MATCH CENTRE: Panthers vs Broncos teams, SuperCoach scores, videos, updates
It was one of the most anticipated grand finals in years and Moses Leota floored Pat Carrigan in the opening minutes.
Penrith prop Leota ran straight at Carrigan and the Brisbane lock was put on his back after trying to put a hit on.
“It was Pat Carrigan who came off second best,” Billy Slater said
Tempers were flaring early and after Liam Martin forced the first error from a hit on a Farnworth, the teams had to be separated.
The Panthers had the first attacking opportunity but the defence was equal to the challenge and then Broncos hooker Billy Walters booted a 40-20 in the fifth minute.
But once again the defence stood tall.
The Panthers completed their first seven sets while the Broncos made five errors in the first 15 minutes and the pressure eventually told.
Kenny crossed in the 18th minute as Reynolds threw his hands in the air.
Reynolds put another short dropout attempt into touch which gifted Nathan Cleary a penalty in front of the posts which he slotted in the 28th minute.
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7pm – IT’S ALMOST GAME TIME
The Penrith Panthers are hunting three straight titles when they face the Brisbane Broncos in a blockbuster sold out 2023 NRL Grand Final at Accor Stadium.
Both sides are 1-17, with Tyrone Peachey and Corey Oates named 18th man.
South Sydney’s NSW Cup side triumphed in the State Cup, thumping the Brisbane Tigers 42-22.
Meanwhile, the Titans and Knights’ NRLW Grand Final is hanging in the balance, with the Gold Coast outfit holding a 18-12 lead.
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5:30pm — PANTHERS’ ‘DISRESPECT’ SLAMMED
Broncos legend Gorden Tallis has slammed the Panthers’ absence at grand final events in the lead up to their Sunday clash against Kevin Walters’ side.
Tallis, who won three premierships with Brisbane, revealed Ivan Cleary’s side snubbed the grand final lunch, instead zooming in to speak to fans.
He also explained that Cleary and Panthers had avoided media opportunities in the lead up to their historic fourth grand final in-a-row, robbing fans of the chance to hear from their favourite players.
“I felt a bit sorry for Penrith fans this week, simple because it’s about promotion right,” Tallis said on Triple M’s Sunday Sin Bin.
“There’s a bit of self-interest, the fan day and we raced back for NRL360. Ivan and the captain didn’t come on, we reached out to the media guy for Triple M.
“And he didn’t want to come on that, then the grand final lunch, they didn’t turn up to that and they zoomed in.
“Some of it I think is arrogant, and I used to say it to Wayne Bennett, if they think this is a Penrith bash up, they aren’t (meant) to be talking to us.
“This is about their fans, so I actually feel a little bit for the Penrith fans. They could become the latest club since 1980 to win three in-a-row.
“If I’m a Penrith fan, I want to hear it’s the greatest week of a Panthers fans like. Hearing from their coach, hearing from their captain, hearing from their star players.”
“They should have been at that lunch, Kevin Walters and Adam Reynolds didn’t want to be there because it was their one day off,” journalist Ben Dobbin said.
“They made the effort and I understand they were down here, Penrith should have been there.”
Fox League’s James Hooper echoed Tallis’ opinion and claimed the Panthers’ media snubs were a “disservice to fans”.
“This is where Ivan Cleary really lets himself down, because if it was any other coach lining up to win three premierships in a row, there would be massive write-ups,” Hooper said.
“They’d be getting segments on all the shows about what a massive performance it would be, but for whatever reason there is that little bit of arrogance, disrespect. Maybe it is being a little bit aloof.
“It’s a disservice to the fans, they’ve got a legion of fans and you aren’t talking to NRL360 or Channel Nine or anyone, it’s the fans.”
Walsh filmed arguing with fan | 00:42
3.15pm — BUNNIES ROUT BRISBANE TO CLINCH STATE CUP
The Rabbitohs may have missed the NRL finals, but their NSW Cup side backed up their Grand Final win with victory in the State Cup over the Brisbane Tigers.
“Glory, glory rings out at Accor Stadium our first of three grand final match ups between the blue and Maroon states and it is the team from NSW the South Sydney Rabbitohs with the bragging rights in this state championship,” Lara Pitt said on Fox League.
“They celebrate there and last week they ended a 40-year drought in the NSW Cup and today they ran away with it with a stellar performance in the second half.
“42-22 victory over the Brisbane Tigers. Tyrone Munro sealed the deal for them and he sealed it for them last week and he was a star on show for them today.”
Greg Alexander believes the class of Souths’ first grade players was too much for the Tigers.
“He certainly was and it is not very often you score three consolation tries, but that is certainly what happened to the Brisbane Tigers,” Alexander said.
“The game was done 15 minutes into that second half when Tyrone Munro scored his third try they led 30-6 at that stage. It is a big win by South Sydney.
“They are littered with first grade players and players that had reasonable NRL seasons with the top grade at the Bunnies.
“They were the better team, they won and the can celebrate now.”
2pm – NRL IMPLEMENTS HEAT POLICY AS TEMPERATURES SOAR
The NRL has implemented its heat policy with extreme conditions in Sydney on Sunday.
Under the policy the NRL will allow teams to utilise extra water runners during games as temperatures at Accor Stadium hit 36 degrees.
Teams will also have access to mist fans and extra ice to help players combat the heat.
Changes to interchange rules could also come into play. Teams are usually only allowed to interchange a maximum of two players but this will be increased to three should the temperature reach the required level at kick off for the NRLW and NRL grand finals.
1:20pm – STATE CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL – RABBITOHS VS TIGERS
The Rabbitohs NSW Cup side leads the Brisbane Tigers 12-6 at halftime.
Exciting winger Tyrone Munro, who played in three games for the Souths first grade side this season, has scored two tries for the Bunnies.
The State Championship Final pits the winners of the QLD Cup and NSW Cup competitions against each other.
12pm – THURSTON SAYS HOT WEATHER TO FAVOUR BRONCOS
NRL legend Johnathan Thurston believes the predicted hot temperatures tonight will favour the Broncos against the Panthers.
It is expected to reach a top of 36 degrees today at Accor Stadium, with it cooling to around 30 degrees at kick off (7:30pm AEDT).
“They’re probably the younger and fitter pack,” Thurston said on Nine’s Sports Sunday.
Thurston isn’t the only one of that opinion.
Accor Stadium’s curator Graeme Logan says the dry and hard deck will give Brisbane “the edge”.
“It’s going to be dry and hard so there’ll be a lot of ball movement and it’ll be a fast game,” Logan told NRL.com.
“The players’ confidence when they’re running, that they won’t be slipping, and can turn throw passes and have a good ground cover [should be helped].
“I think everyone else is concerned about the heat, but the guys from Brisbane particularly will be used to heat and humidity.
“This is a great grass coverage, it’s really thick, it’s low so it’ll be hard and fast game for sure and one for the attackers.”
The two best teams in 2023 the Panthers and the Broncos face off in a mouth-watering NRL decider.
The Panthers are set to stick solid with the same 17 that got the job done in the preliminary final with Jarome Luai overcoming a shoulder injury.
Luai is not 100 per cent, but is expected to play through the pain, with Jack Cogger on the bench as insurance.
Izack Tago (pectoral) got through the preliminary final unscathed and is set to play, with Tyrone Peachey or Zac Hosking in line to be 18th man.
The Broncos had a number of injuries scares throughout the week, but are tipped to run out with the same 17 that got the job done in the preliminary final.
Herbie Farnworth left training with a leg injury on Monday and has been on light duties this week.
Reece Walsh and Adam Reynolds were also nursing minor niggles but are expected to line up on Sunday night.
Corey Oates and Marty Taupau will vie for the 18th man role.
There is no shortage of mouth-watering match-ups in the decider with Thomas Flegler and Payne Haas’ battle with Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris up front to set the tone for the game.
Halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Lua and Broncos counterparts Adam Reynolds and Ezra Mam will go a long way towards deciding the result.
Isaah Yeo and Patrick Carrigan’s battle at lock promises to be one of for the ages.
But the battle between reigning Clive Churchill Medallist Dylan Edwards and Reece Walsh looks set to be the key one at the back.
Former Panthers general manager of football Phil Gould believes it is where Penrith has the edge.
“He saves more tries than any fullback in the game,” Gould said of Edwards on Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus podcast.
“And he’s always there and he’s organising people and as they retreat back in defence, forwards will have a quick look at him and he’ll say, ‘You need to go to that side, you need to go to that side, you need to stay where you are, you need to turn’. He’ll have little signals to them and they won’t question it. If he says, ‘You go that way’, they’ll go that way.
“Reece Walsh is not doing that for the Broncos; not to Dylan Edwards’ [extent].
“That’s why I see the difference in the two defensive lines. That’s what I see as the biggest factor here.
“They’re both great attacking teams, but the inexperience of the occasion and the knowledge part of it lies with Dylan Edwards.”
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And the strategic battle between coaches Ivan Cleary and Kevin Walters could prove vital as both men aim to win a title with their son on Sunday night.
The Broncos beat the Panthers 13-12 in the first game of the season, while Penrith squared the ledger with a 15-4 result in Round 12.
Both teams were in with a shot of the minor premiership until the final round, with Penrith just getting the chocolates, which shows how evenly matched these two teams are.
The best defence in the NRL in the Panthers comes up against the best attack in the Broncos setting up a tantislising battle in what has the potential to be one of the great Grand Finals.
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Penrith Panthers vs Brisbane Broncos — 7.30pm AEST at Accor Stadium
Panthers team: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Sunia Turuva 3. Izack Tago 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Moses Leota 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Scott Sorensen 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Jack Cogger 15. Lindsay Smith 16. Spencer Leniu 17. Luke Garner. 18th man: 18. Tyrone Peachey
Players cut: 19. Matt Eisenhuth 20. Zac Hosking 21. Luke Sommerton 22. Thomas Jenkins
Broncos team: 1. Reece Walsh 2. Jesse Arthars 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Selwyn Cobbo 6. Ezra Mam 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Flegler 9. Billy Walters 10. Payne Haas 11. Kurt Capewell 12. Jordan Riki 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Tyson Smoothy 15. Brendan Piakura 16. Kobe Hetherington 17. Keenan Palasia. 18th man: 18. Corey Oates
Players cut: 19. Martin Taupau 20. Corey Jensen 21. Jock Madden 22. Tristan Sailor
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