2021 NRL Semi-Final, Panthers 8 Eels 6 – Report

Brendan Wood reviews the Penrith Panthers 8-6 win over the Parramatta Eels in a finals thriller. Here’s how the game went.


Penrith Panthers 8

Tries: Kurt Capewell (16)

Goals: Nathan Cleary (17, 40)

Parramatta Eels 6

Tries: Waqa Blake (11)

Goals: Mitchell Moses (12)

Player of the Year Points

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3 pts – Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers)
2 pts – Mitchell Moses (Parramatta Eels)
1 pt – Isaah Yeo (Penrith Panthers)


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1st Half

It was a physical start with neither side willing to give away any easy metres in the opening exchanges. The Panthers gained the early ascendency and eventually wore down the Parramatta defence.

As a result, Api Koroisau made the first break of the game and offloaded to Nathan Cleary, who came within an inch of scoring but the Eels scrambled back in time to shut the play down.

Despite almost having their line breached, the Eels turned that close call around and made the most of their luck. Mitchell Moses put up a swirling bomb which Dylan Edwards could not catch. The ball bounced into the lap of Waqa Blake and he crossed for the opening try.

After scoring first points, the Eels turned the ball over cheaply through a mistimed offload from Nathan Brown. This time, the Panthers pounced. Nathan Cleary put in a short grubber just far enough for Kurt Capewell to scoop up the ball and crash over to level the scores.

It wasn’t long before the Panthers had the Eels under pressure again. Off the back of another Eels error, the Panthers got over the line twice, however both times they were denied by the bunker.

Much like they did earlier, the Eels found an opportunity as they exposed Dylan Edwards with another towering bomb. Edwards made a meal of the catch again, but this time a forward pass from Clint Gutherson prevented a try being scored.

The final 10 minutes of the half saw the Eels begin to build pressure. Despite forcing several repeats sets, the Penrith defence remained staunch. With time winding down, the Panthers got a penalty within range of the posts and opted for the two points, taking a slim lead into the break.

HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 8 – Parramatta Eels 6

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2nd Half

There was plenty of push and shove to begin the second half, with both sides coming to blows over various incidents.

After putting their frustrations aside, the Panthers looked to have landed the first blow on the scoreboard when Blake Ferguson made a meal of a swirling Nathan Cleary bomb. Brent Naden crossed in the corner, however Jerome Luai was offside on the kick which reversed the decision.

There were several close calls for both sides in the next 10 minutes as the defence was strained without breaking. Neither team were giving an inch in a very tight contest, with ball control and physicality holding firm.

Finally it was the Eels who produced an error, inviting the Panthers onto the attack with 20 minutes to go. On the third tackle Jerome Luai kicked early and Clint Gutherson diffused the situation to get the ball back for Parramatta.

Once again, an error for the Eels gifted the Panthers field position. Off the back of a penalty, Nathan Cleary forced a repeat set, however an error from Paul Momirovski in the next set let the Eels off the hook.

Inside the final 10 minutes, the Panthers went on the attack again. They were met by desperate defence and the score remained the same. After turning away the Panthers again, the Eels were presented with a chance to take the lead when Api Koroisau made an error.

With all the possession in the final few minutes, the Eels threw everything they could at the Panthers but couldn’t execute when they needed to, making an error in the dying moments. The Panthers held on to record a tough two point win in a classic low-scoring finals encounter.

FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 8 – Parramatta Eels 6

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Mitch Kenny – ankle

Match Review Committee

to be advised

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