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Penrith, Melbourne into National Rugby League semifinals

October 3, 2020 GMT

SYDNEY (AP) — The Penrith Panthers are one win away from their first National Rugby League grand final in 17 years after three first-half tries from Nathan Cleary gave them a 29-28 win over the two-time defending champion Sydney Roosters.

Cleary scored 21 points, including a clutch 78th-minute field goal that proved the difference. The win advances the Panthers, who finished in first place during the regular season, to a semifinal in two weeks.

Under the NRL’s second-chance playoff format for the top four teams, the fourth-place Roosters will play the Canberra Raiders in a 2019 grand final rematch in the second round. The Raiders beat the Cronulla Sharks 32-20 on Saturday.

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Second-place Melbourne overcame an early 12-0 deficit to also advance directly to the semifinals with a 36-24 win over the third-place Parramatta Eels.

On Sunday, Newcastle plays the South Sydney Rabbitohs. The winner of that elimination match takes on Parramatta in the second round next weekend.

The grand final, delayed like most other professional sports around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic, is scheduled for Oct. 25 at Sydney’s Olympic stadium. Due to continuing crowd restrictions, the 82,000-seat stadium will be limited to 40,000 spectators under current plans.

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