The Panthers Harold Matthews side produced a brilliant comeback at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Saturday to defeat the Parramatta Eels 25-22 and remain undefeated in 2018.
After trailing by sixteen points in the early stages of the second half, the Panthers rallied as winger Maxwell Pritchard scored a double, while fullback Suina Turuva and centre Ashley Cosgrove also crossed the line.
Five-eighth Donovan Boney overcame an early elbow injury to play a starring role in the comeback, assisting a try, slotting four conversions and kicking a late field goal that edged the Panthers ahead.
Parramatta opened the scoring inside two minutes as winger Matthew Komolafe tiptoed down the sideline and charged his way over the try line with little room to work with. Five-eighth Samuel Loizou’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful, with the score remaining 4-0 in the Eels’ favour.
The Eels continued to dominate the early stages of the first half, with the Panthers struggling to escape their own half courtesy of poor ball control and ill-discipline.
Penrith’s goal line defence held firm for an extensive period before Peter Taateo extended Parramatta’s lead in the 20th minute. The Eels prop bulldozed through the Panthers defensive line from a drop out to score, and Loizou’s conversion stretched the margin to ten points.
The Panthers acted quickly to close the gap however, with winger Kristian-Li Mai brushing off several Parramatta defenders to bust through the Eels line and link up with fullback Sunia Turuva, who dashed away and touched down. Boney converted to close the gap back to four points in the 24th minute.
Some bruising defence by Penrith’s forwards saw the Eels pinned deep inside their own half as the Panthers looked to equalise in the closing stages of the first half. Instead, the Eels would race out to a ten-point lead as Komolafe took an intercept and ran the length of the field to bag his second try. Loizou’s conversion on the stroke of halftime saw the Eels go into the sheds with a 16-6 advantage.
HALF-TIME - PANTHERS 6-16 EELS
The Eels carried their momentum into the second half and quickly converted it into points, with Alfred Curunenavuli scoring in the corner at the end of a Parramatta backline shift. Loizou’s goal from the sideline extended Parramatta’s lead to 22-6 in the 35th minute.
With 20 minutes remaining and a 16-point deficit to overcome, halfback Connor Mason and winger Maxwell Pritchard linked up to narrow the margin in the 40th minute. Mason sent a grubber into the in-goal which looked set to trickle over the dead ball line before Pritchard terrifically reeled the ball into play to touch down, and Boney split the posts in half with his conversion attempt to take the score to 22-12.
The Panthers surged upfield from the kick off and Pritchard quickly found himself with a second try under similar circumstances, this time pouncing on a Boney grubber in behind the Parramatta goal line defence. The five-eighth was again successful with the boot to narrow the margin to four points in the 45th minute.
Having trailed by sixteen points earlier in the half, the Panthers found themselves on level terms in the 51st minute as centre Ashley Cosgrove slid over out wide after some fancy footwork by Boney following a scrum. The Eels breathed a collective sigh of relief as Boney pushed his conversion attempt wide, setting up a grandstand finish at 22-all with six minutes to play.
The forwards carried the Panthers back into enemy territory and teed up Boney to complete the outstanding comeback with a 55th minute field goal before the five-eighth stretched the lead to three points a few minutes later with a penalty goal.
Parramatta threw the kitchen sink at Penrith in the dying minutes of play to salvage a miracle win, however the Panthers refused to give in and would come away with a remarkable 25-22 comeback win over their western Sydney rivals.
FULL-TIME - PANTHERS 25-22 EELS