Peter Wallace’s NSW Cup team claimed a thrilling one-point victory, beating Parramatta Eels 25-24 at CommBank Stadium on Friday evening.
Jack Cole was dangerous throughout, stepping up to fill the void of regular halves Kurt Falls and Sean O’Sullivan, but it was halfback Trent Toelau who ultimately won the battle for the visitors, kicking a field-goal in the 78th minute.
Panthers hooker Soni Luke opened the scoring in the sixth minute, scooping the ball up from dummy half and dummying to his right before weaving through the staggered Parramatta line to ground the ball. Five-eighth Cole added the extras, continuing his dominant kicking form after converting eight from eight in his last start.
The Eels responded seven minutes later when prop Ky Rodwell charged at the Penrith line, crashing through a crowd of Panthers to score. Captain Jordan Rankin converted the try to make it six-apiece.
The Panthers were ruled to be in front of the kicker at the restart, gifting the Eels great attacking field position.
The Eels completed their set before a midfield bomb landed right under the posts. Despite Sunia Turuva’s desperate attempt Wiremu Geirg pounced on the loose ball to claim the four-pointer. Rankin slotted the conversion from in front to give his team a six-point advantage.
Penrith were awarded back-to-back penalties in the 31st minute and it was hard running lock J’maine Hopgood who took full advantage. Returning to the side this week following a back injury Hopgood collided with the Eels defence, before spinning his way through a hole in the line to snag a four-pointer. Cole’s conversion sailed through the sticks to level the scores once more.
Hopgood combined with dummy half Luke three minutes later, who found Isaiah Iongi with an inside ball. The Queensland U19s representative fullback raced 20 metres downfield before flicking the ball to Cole who went on to score. Nineteen-year-old Cole converted his own try to give the Panthers a six-point lead at half-time.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 18 - EELS 12
The opening minutes of the second half were filled with chaos, as Luke fell victim to a dangerous tackle which saw Greig sent off for the remainder of the match. Christian Crichton was sent to the sin bin for the altercation that followed the high shot.
Minutes later an offload from Chris Smith was collected by Luke and put into the hands of Iongi who ran around the back of the Eels line to score behind the posts. Cole added the two-points, giving Penrith a 12-point lead.
Eels lock Nathan Brown was sent to the sin bin in the 49th minute leaving Parramatta with an 11-man side for the next ten minutes.
Despite their disadvantage the Eels scored back-to-back tries soon after.
Mitch Rein crept his way over the line to score in the 54th minute for the home side. Rankin kicked the conversion to make it a six-point ball game.
Second-rower Toni Mataele found his away over the try line in the 74th minute for Parramatta after the Eels made their way downfield courtesy of a penalty. Centre Hayze Perham levelled the scores seconds later.
The away side soon regrouped and set up a field goal opportunity for Trent Toelau in the 78th minute, passing the ball back to the halfback whose kick sailed straight over the black dot.
Parramatta went short on the kick-off but Turuva stepped up to reel in the ball despite a heavy challenge to seal the one-point victory.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 25 - EELS 24