Penrith Panthers star hits back at criticism after St Helens loss

St Helens were crowned Champions of the World on Saturday after a Lewis Dodd drop goal in extra time saw them sink favourites and NRL Champions Penrith Panthers.

The Panthers had battled back from 12-0 with Nathan Cleary converting a late try to send the game to golden point.

Cleary celebrated the kick excitedly and perhaps a bit over the top but his halfback partner Jarome Luai has hit back at the criticism Cleary has copped for it.

“That’s all in the moment. That was a pretty big pressure kick he pulled off,” Luai said to the Canberra Times.

“He has stepped up in a lot of those moments. If people are talking crap about that, it’s pretty crazy because he has stepped up in a lot of those moments.”

He also hit back at those who said replacing Kikau for Garner was part of the reason Penrith lost as Saints exploited that side.

“Kiks has always been there on my side, but that’s what footy is about. Teams change,” Luai said.

“We faced that challenge last year, we lost some players. And the year before that.

“But I am stoked to have Gards next to me.

“We have had a pretty good five weeks together. I am happy to have got out there and had our first hit out and continue on the combination.

“Gards is pretty big himself. It’s not really about size for us.

“It’s a building thing and it’s a long year. It was our first game of the year year, and I didn’t expect our best footy in the first game of the year.”

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