NRL 2021: Penrith Panthers' win overshadowed by Gold Coast Titans' Herman Ese'ese sending off

The sending off of forward Herman Ese'ese overshadowed Penrith Panthers' victory, defeating the 12-man Gold Coast Titans 48-12 in Brisbane.

One test Kiwis international Ese'ese, 26, was given his marching orders late in the first half, hitting Panthers winger Brian To'o high and sparking a fracas between the two sides.

His sending off came at the end of a weekend that saw the NRL crackdown on contact with the head - but Ese'ese's shot would have seen him sent off regardless of what rules were being used.

The weekend saw three players sent off, and another 14 sin-binned.

It overshadowed a fantastic individual display from Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary, who scored a hat-trick and assisted two further tries, seeing Penrith maintain their perfect record in 2021.

The Panthers are top of the NRL ladder, with 10 wins from 10 matches played, two points clear of second placed Parramatta Eels.

The Titans' defeat meanwhile sees them miss out on the chance to move clear into the NRL's top eight, sitting in ninth behind Canberra Raiders on points differential.