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“I have to say…” Ivan Cleary gives honest opinion of Super League after loss to Wigan Warriors

For a record fifth time, Wigan Warriors have become World Club Champions as they beat out Penrith Panthers at the DW Stadium.

It was a gruelling affair with Man of the Match Bevan French revealing to the BBC after the game that it felt like Wigan were defending their try line for 80 minutes.

Despite that they managed to score three tries, one of which has been called into question by ex-NRL star Josh Mansour, and more importantly, they managed to contain the best player in the world Nathan Cleary.

They certainly contained him in the second half with the Panthers unable to score in the second forty, but Cleary did open the scoring for the NRL champions in response to Abbas Miski’s early try.

After Cleary’s score Wigan regained the lead through Kruise Leeming before Dylan Edwards put Penrith ahead seconds before the hooter, but in the end it was Jake Wardle’s controversial try that won it as Matt Peet’s side defended excellently to see out the win.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary has now had his say on the loss, the second time his team have fallen short against English opponents in two years.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “The World Club Challenge is becoming elusive that’s for sure, but I can’t criticise my lads tonight because they gave it everything.

“I have to give Wigan credit because they had three looks on our end and they scored a try from every opportunity.

“We pride ourselves on our defence so it was a bit disappointing for us to let them score on those three only chances they had on our line.

“There was a lot of missed points and chances from our side so that was disappointing but they executed better and deserved the win.”

Wigan Warriors are evidence that Super League sides are “closing the gap” on the NRL

Wigan Warriors

The loss also marked Penrith’s fourth attempt at winning the World Club Challenge and their fourth loss, one of which came at the hands of Wigan Warriors in 1991 at Anfield.

Since 2011 the NRL sides have won an impressive eight out of eleven World Club Challenges, the Panthers and Manly Sea Eagles being the only Australian sides to lose during that period.

Ivan Cleary has now spoken out on how this victory for Wigan Warriors is further evidence that Super League is competitive with the NRL and that the elite teams are “closing the gap”.

He explained:  “I have to say the better teams here are closing the gap on the NRL for sure, I think that’s the good thing about this competition because it provides that comparison.

“We love this competition. It gives us the chance to test ourselves against the best teams from here, even if we didn’t get the win tonight.

“It’s been a great week and maybe we can have a crack some other time at winning this trophy.”

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