Penrith Panthers NYC v Eels NYC, Pirtek Stadium, 27th March. Photo by Jeff Lambert (Penrith Panthers)

An imposing second half performance has seen the NYC Panthers prevail 42-4 in a top-of-the-table clash with Parramatta at Pirtek Stadium.

After going into halftime with a lead of only two points, the Panthers turned on the class after the break and were no doubt assisted by an injury to Eels fullback Bevan French.

Panthers NYC coach Cameron Ciraldo made a late change as Ratu Tuisese replaced Fuimanu Enese on the wing, and Jack Nelson returned on the bench.

The Panthers dominated field position in the opening phases but were unable to convert the territorial advantage into points. In the 10th minute it looked like Tyrone May had reached out to score but the pass was called forward. Every dangerous play the Panthers threw at the Parramatta line was nullified by some outstanding defence.

Penrith had to call on some desperate defence of their own as Troy Dargan threatened to break clear in the 19th minute. Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards somehow managed to pry the ball loose just as the Eels playmaker got in open space.

The deadlock was broken two minutes later however as Rob Jennings raced out of the line and created a gap for Eels fullback Bevan French to gather the ball at pace and score. Dargan’s attempted conversion sailed wide, leaving the score at 4-0.

The Panthers hit back in the 30th minute and what had seemed so difficult early in the game was suddenly so simple. A quick tap 10 metres out was given to Liam Martin, who charged onto the ball, drove the tacklers backwards and scored beside the posts. Nathan Cleary slotted the conversion for a 6-4 lead.

In the final seconds before the break a hopeful chip over the top from Cleary was instead scooped up by French, who broke into the back field. Panthers winger Ratu Tuisese showed some impressive pace to round up the speedster and drag him to ground as the siren sounded. The Eels fullback injured his arm in the tackle and would not return in the second half.

HALFTIME – Panthers 6-4

The Panthers almost got off to the perfect start immediately after the break as Jack Hetherington regathered a Cleary bomb on the last tackle. With defenders clawing at him, Hetherington charged his way over the tryline but lost control of the ball as he attempted to ground it.

Edwards didn’t make the same mistake three minutes later as he strolled through a yawning gap on the left edge for a 43rd minute try. Cleary knocked the conversion over for the Panthers to push out to a 12-4 lead.

Edwards then scored a mirror version of his try in the 50th minute as he popped up on the right edge to cross untouched. The loss of French at halftime had clearly unsettled the Eels defensive line. The conversion was again successful from Cleary and the Panthers led 18-4.

The Panthers extended their lead in the 58th minute as some quick hands on the shortside allowed winger Jake Ennis to dive over in the corner. From the sideline, Cleary nailed the conversion and the scoreboard read 24-4.

Parramatta’s heads were beginning to drop, along with their energy levels, as Corey Waddell strolled through some lazy defence to score. Cleary’s successful conversion made the score 30-4.

The next try for the Panthers was a unique one. A long kick straight down the middle from Cleary took an awkward bounce to evade the Eels fill-in fullback Michael Doolan. Jarome Luai showed some great speed to be on the spot just in time to gather the bouncing ball and score. Cleary was again on target with the conversion attempt and the Panthers led 36-4.

Cleary capped off a solid all-round performance with a converted try of his own with four minutes left in the contest.

FULLTIME - Panthers 42-4