Penrith scored three unanswered tries in the second half to fightback and defeat Parramatta 22-18 on Sunday afternoon at Pepper Stadium.
After a poor start to the game, the home side ran out with a different attitude from the halftime break and quickly put themselves back into the lead. Despite inviting the Eels back into the game with some silly errors, the Panthers were able to hold onto their lead and overcome the surprisingly slick Eels line-up.
A bemusing penalty against Penrith’s Suaia Matagi – for what looked like a good old-fashioned hit – allowed Parramatta to cruise downfield from the opening set and they take full advantage, with Bureta Faraimo crossing the in corner untouched. Michael Gordon was wide of the mark but it was 4-0 after just 5 minutes.
From there Parramatta were in-control, dominating possession for the opening ten minutes and getting on a roll early in the game. In the 13th minute they struck again when Bevan French pounced on a Clint Gutherson grubber. Gordon was unable to convert leaving the score at 8-0.
Just minutes later, Gutherson found some space on the left edge and crossed for the Eels third try. This time Gordon made use of the closer range and put his side out to a 14-0 lead.
A pair of errors from Penrith’s new five-eighth Bryce Cartwright hindered their attack midway through the first half, but in the 27th minute Reagan Campbell-Gillard punched through the Eels line to score just outside the left upright. Nathan Cleary’s first attempt for the day was successful and the score went to 14-6.
Parramatta’s stand-in half Clint Gutherson showed he’s more than just a winger, slicing through with a straightened-up run that ended with Faraimo diving over the try-line. However, the celebrations were short-lived after the Bunker ruled there was an obstruction.
Penrith did well to hold out the Eels relentless attack but they were getting no favours from the on-field referees. In the 27th minute, with James Fisher-Harris down with a suspected dislocated elbow, Parramatta shifted the ball across field and Jeff Robson placed a perfectly positioned kick which allowed French to grab his second try.
The conversion was off the mark, but it left Penrith trailing 18-6 at halftime and a coaches spray no-doubt awaiting.
Halftime: Panthers 6 Eels 18
Penrith needed to start the second half well and they did so when Tyrone Peachey barged his way across the white line in the 45th minute to open the scoring. Cleary did well with the conversion to peg the score back to 18-12.
Bryce Cartwright got back to doing what he does best and ran straight through a gap in the Eels defence to score another Panthers’ try. Despite kicking from virtually the same position as his last one, Cleary couldn’t add the extra points.
Things began to swing the home side’s way and in the 53rd minute, Josh Mansour dived over in the corner for the Panthers’ third-straight try. Cleary’s successful kick made it 16 unanswered points for Penrith in the second half and it extended their lead to 22-18.
A frustrating period unfolded for the Panthers, with silly errors inviting Parramatta back into the game. If it wasn’t for Peter Wallace’s try-saving tackle that held up Gutherson, the lead could’ve been stolen.
A volleyball-like finish to a Panthers’ bomb in the 73rd minute allowed Penrith to take off and press the Eels, but a quick pass from Cartwright couldn’t be taken and the ball was turned over.
Another exciting play eventuated minutes later, with Waqa Blake looming towards the Eels’ line only to be thrown over the sideline.
With just three minutes left to play, Parramatta found their way to the attacking end of the field but they couldn’t collect one of their towering kicks.
Penrith played their way out of trouble and were able to keep the visitors at bay for another set, leaving the 22-18 score as it stood 25 minutes earlier.
Fulltime: Panthers 22 Eels 18