A polished second-half performance saw the Jersey Flegg Panthers secure a 22-6 win over Parramatta Eels in their final trial match at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
After a rusty first half, the Panthers turned entertainers after halftime, scoring four unanswered tries in a performance that would have been pleasing for coach Ben Harden ahead of the new Jersey Flegg season.
Hooker Luke Sommerton had an excellent afternoon, having a hand in three of the Panthers’ tries. Winger Ethan Clark-Wood bagged an impressive double, and was joined on the scoresheet by Liam Henry and Adam Fearnley.
Attacking opportunities were few and far between in the first half, although Panthers centre Emmanuel Tagaloamatua was forced to make a one-on-one tackle to deny Eels second-rower Peni Tohi from close range.
The Panthers first half chance came when second-rower Brad Fearnley made a bustling line break and found Luke Sommerton in support, before the hooker was swooped on by the Eels scrambling defence.
The Eels eventually found the breakthrough after 25 minutes when second-rower Daniel Reardon sliced through on the edge, and the conversion gave the visitors a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers found themselves under pressure once again late in the first half, but an intercept on the goal-line by halfback Hayden Bonanno kept the Eels at bay heading into the break.
HALF-TIME: EELS 6 – PANTHERS 0
On the back of some more resilient goal-line defence, the Panthers snagged back-to-back tries to snatch the lead early in the second half.
In a game that had lacked attacking quality, Luke Sommerton made something out of nothing to put the Panthers on the board in the 41st minute. The hooker broke into the backfield before he found Ethan Clark-Wood lurking through the middle, and the winger streaked away to score.
Five-eighth Niwhai Puru’s subsequent conversion tied things up at 6-all.
Mavrick Geyer then one-upped Sommerton with a piece of dazzling skill to help set up the Panthers’ second try.
The backrower jumped out of dummy half and weaved through the marker defence before he got an excellent offload away for Niwhai Puru. Prop forward Liam Henry made a great effort to push up in support of Puru and then dive over out wide, pushing the Panthers ahead 10-4 after 45 minutes.
The Panthers attack was really starting to click into gear, highlighted by another slick try on the 50-minute mark.
Luke Sommerton directed play down the short side, where fullback Sadee Sub Laban put a delicate chip into the corner. The ball was then plucked out in an aerial duel by Ethan Clark-Wood for the winger to score his second try of the afternoon.
Puru added a terrific sideline conversion, stretching the Panthers’ lead to 16-6
The Eels threatened to close the gap as they ran a dangerous backline play, but the Panthers scrambled in defence to shut the play down.
The Panthers added the finishing touch to the game shortly before halftime, as Sommerton jumped from dummy half and linked with second-rower Brad Fearnley, who ran a great line to slide over the line.
With Puru’s third successful conversion from out wide, the Panthers came away with a convincing 16-point victory.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 22 – EELS 6