Comeback falls short at Panthers Stadium

The Panthers’ 2019 NRL season began with a disappointing 20-12 defeat to Parramatta Eels at Panthers Stadium on Sunday.

As a result of poor ball control in wet conditions, and injuries to Isaah Yeo and Hame Sele, the Panthers were unable to claw their way back from a 14-0 deficit, despite staging a mini-comeback in the second half.

Wayde Egan and James Tamou were the try-scorers for the Panthers, while Sele and Tyrell Fuimaono made their club debuts in front of a Panthers Stadium crowd of 12,604.

The Panthers were scrappy in the first half, spilling the greasy football seven times before the interval, allowing the Eels to dominate.

The Eels’ opener came in the 15th minute when Mara Niukore burrowed over in the corner after latching onto a deflected grubber. Mitchell Moses’ conversion was off the mark, and it remained 4-0.

The Panthers were dealt another setback just moments later, as Hame Sele’s club debut was cut short by an arm injury.

A Panthers knock on deep in their own half had seemingly resulted in Blake Ferguson scoring the Eels’ second in the 24th minute, but Penrith forced him into touch.

The Panthers made another error from the scrum, and they were not let off the hook this time as Michael Jennings juggled the ball over the try line. Moses’ missed conversion meant the Panthers remained only eight points adrift.

The Eels threatened to stretch that margin, spending the next 5 minutes camped on the Panthers goal-line. However, Penrith finally got themselves out of danger in the 32nd minute when Josh Mansour retrieved James Maloney’s short dropout.

A rare opportunity in the red zone presented itself to the Panthers late in the first half, but the Eels hung on to maintain their eight-point lead.

HALF-TIME: EELS 8 – PANTHERS 0

Despite the promising signs shown by the Panthers late in the first half, the Eels went ahead 14-0 in the 45th minute. Moses picked up a loose ball and got an offload away for Reed Mahoney to score, and the halfback converted.

The Panthers came agonisingly close to scoring in the 49th and 52nd minute but came up empty-handed both occasions. Reagan Campbell-Gillard was wrapped up short by scrambling Eels defence, while Waqa Blake was ruled to have knocked on over the try line.

The Panthers lost another player to injury in the 54th minute after Isaah Yeo was the victim of a nasty high shot by Michael Jennings, from which the Eels had seemingly scored. However, the try was disallowed, and Jennings was sent to the sin bin.

Wayde Egan immediately made use of the extra room to move, bursting out of dummy half and weaving his way around several Eels defenders to score. Nathan Cleary knocked over the goal, reducing the margin to 14-6 with 24 minutes remaining.

The Panthers had finally found some momentum, and James Tamou converted it into another try as he brushed off four Eels defenders to plant the ball down in the 65th minute. Cleary was again on target, making it a two-point ball game.

Although Tepai Moeroa bombed a chance to kill off the game, Jennings would not be as wasteful, slicing over out wide in the 77th minute. Moses converted, extinguishing the Panthers’ hopes of adding a late twist to the tale.

FULL-TIME: EELS 20 – PANTHERS 12