The Panthers prevailed over the Eels in the Battle of the West, coming back from a 14-0 deficit to post a 24-14 victory.
The Eels started the match on fire. A few slick backline shifts saw Josh Hoffman cross for a double before the half hour mark and Corey Norman sold a brilliant dummy to run in for a try. Average goal-kicking from Moses kept their score to 14 points.
A dazzling solo effort from Waqa Blake 35m out got the Panthers back in the game just before half-time. In the second half the Panthers took full control with the Eels barely getting a look at their goal-line. A rampaging Villiame Kikau scored the first try of the half and another try to Blake gave the Panthers the lead. A couple of penalty goals stretched out the Panthers lead as they kept the Eels scoreless in the second half.
Tale of two halves
The Eels were dominant in the first half but in the second half, a slew of errors and penalties prevented them from gaining any momentum. There were three instances where they dropped a ball in their own half after surviving a set on their line.
Mitchell Moses went from hero to zero as a strong start to the game, including the opening try assist for Hoffman, was interrupted by a HIA check. He didn’t fare well in his return, earning a sin binning in the 53rd minute with the Panthers scoring a try in his absence.
Coach Brad Arthur was certainly not pleased with their second half efforts and delivering a consistent 80 minute performance is sure to be on the agenda at training this week.
Griffin can breathe a little easier
With a lot of rumours and hearsay surrounding the club harmony at the Panthers, it would have been a big relief for Anthony Griffin to come away with the victory. When the score read 14-0 to the Eels, the heat must have been turned up a little on his job security as it looked like the Panthers could be in for a repeat of their disastrous start to their 2017 season.
However after what was sure to be an impassioned pep talk at half-time, Griffin got the Panthers to settle down and come away with it in the end. In the cut-throat world of coaching though, he’ll need to keep the good times rolling to keep the media stories at bay of him losing his job.
Hayne makes solid return to the Blue and Gold
For all the pre-season drama, when it came down to game day it was a solid performance from Jarryd Hayne as he took to sharing the role of fullback with Bevan French.
Defending and attacking well from centre, Hayne was moved to the back whenever the Eels began a set in order to produce more powerful kick returns. It’s a shared role they intend to continue as Arthur works on getting the best back out of Hayne.
Warm day out at Penrith
Summer may be over but it certainly felt like it out at Penrith with 31c temperatures making for less than ideal game conditions. The heat factor may have played a part in fatigue setting in and how well the teams were able to adapt to it.
Villiame Kikau was unleashed late in the first half, fresh as a daisy against tired forwards and his injection into the game turned the momentum in Penrith’s favours. Conversely for Parramatta, regular 80 minute performers like Nathan Brown weren’t able to go the distance and they missed his influence on the field when he was absent.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
“They had all the ball in the first half and coming in at half-time it just felt like we had more running in our legs than they did. That showed in the second half when we came out and played the way we did.” – Panthers Captain Peter Wallace
“We started really well and in the second half we started poorly and turned over too much possession. In these conditions, it just took its toll physically.” – Eels coach Brad Arthur
Penrith Panthers- 24
Tries: Waqa Blake (34m, 58m), Villiame Kikau (42m)
Goals: Nathan Cleary 6/6
Parramatta Eels- 14
Tries: Josh Hoffman (5m, 26m), Corey Norman (20m)
Goals: Mitchell Moses 1/3
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