Andrew Pelechaty reviews the epic top four clash between Penrith and Parramatta. Here’s how the game went.
|29th||Penalty Goal Mitchell Moses (Parramatta)||Parramatta 2-0|
|39th||Try Josh Mansour (Penrith)||Penrith 4-2|
|40th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 6-2|
|55th||Try Liam Martin (Penrith)||Penrith 10-2|
|57th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 12-2|
|77th||Penalty Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 14-2|
|79th||Try Jarome Luai (Penrith)||Penrith 18-2|
|79th||Goal Nathan Cleary (Penrith)||Penrith 20-2|
Looking to go a step closer to their first minor premiership since 2003, Penrith threw everything at Parramatta, but were knocked back twice by the Bunker in the opening 10 minutes (including Jarome Luai being held up in-goal), and used their only Captain’s Challenge.
A brain snap from Maika Sivo nearly gave Penrith their first try halfway through the first half: fielding a grubber in the in-goal, the ball hit his leg, but he grounded it just before a charging Brian To’o did.
Penrith missed another scoring opportunity with Moses Leota losing the ball close to the line.
Parramatta finally got a decent attacking opportunity after 25 minutes, when Josh Mansour knocked on 20 out from his goal-line. Unfortunately, they couldn’t capitalise as Clint Gutherson knocked on, continuing a scoreless first half so far.
Parramatta got another chance soon after through another Penrith knock on close to their goal-line. They were awarded a penalty in the ensuing set, with Mitchell Moses giving Parramatta a 2-0 lead after 29 minutes.
Crucially, Parramatta used their only Captain’s Challenge (unsuccessfully) five minutes before halftime.
Showing the tenacity that’s marked their 12-game winning streak, Penrith finally scored right on the dot with Mansour scoring in the corner, off a beautiful ball from Luai. Nathan Cleary kicked a booming sideline conversion to give Penrith a 6-2 halftime lead.
The second half continued the arm-wrestle, with Penrith getting their first decent chance in the 54th minute, attacking Parramatta’s line with a Cleary kick, but Parramatta survived.
Cleary had another chance a minute later, putting up a perfect kick for Liam Martin to score. Cleary’s conversion gave Penrith a crucial 12-2 break in a tight, low-scoring game.
Penrith kept the pressure on Parramatta for the next 10 minutes, camping out on the Eels’ line as they looked to close out the game, but Parramatta survived again.
Cleary worked his magic again inside the final 10 minutes with a 40-20 to put Penrith in attacking territory again, with over 50 tackles in Parramatta’s 20.
Penrith took their lead out to 12 with another Cleary penalty goal in the 77th minute, and then a last-minute try to Luai, giving them a lucky 13 straight wins, and extending their winning record at Penrith Park to 9-0.
Despite the loss, Parramatta stays in the top four and can be proud of their tenacious defence. Two weeks after losing 38-0 to Souths, the Eels only conceded three tries tonight. Penrith would have put a cricket score on a lesser side.
The final 20-2 score wasn’t an indication of how close this game was; a contender for game of the year, it was played with a finals-like intensity.
Leading 6-2 at halftime, Penrith dominated the opening stages of the second half, but couldn’t break through. They finally got their chance in the 55th minute, with Liam Martin rising above the Parramatta defenders to take a pinpoint Nathan Cleary kick, giving Penrith a crucial 12-2 lead. It also showed Cleary’s class and ability to find the clutch plays in the important moments.
Penrith Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Brent Naden 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo. Interchange: 14. Tyrone May 15. Spencer Leniu 16. Moses Leota 17. Zane Tetevano.
Parramatta Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Jai Field 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 14. Ray Stone 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange: 15. Andrew Davey 16. Kane Evans 17. Oregon Kaufusi 20. Will Smith.