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2022 NRL Round 9, Panthers 20 Eels 22 – Report

Shannon Meyer reviews Parramatta’s upset of the Penrith Panthers in the game between two Western Sydney powerhouses.

MATCHDAY RESULTS

SCOREBOARD

Penrith Panthers 20
Tries: Dylan Edwards (4), Taylan May (38, 53), Spencer Leniu (77)
Goals: Nathan Cleary 2 (4, 77)

Parramatta Eels 22
Tries: Clint Gutherson (15), Reed Mahoney (26 – penalty try), Ryan Matterson (66), Dylan Brown (69)
Goals: Mitchell Moses 3 (27, 66, 69)

MATCH REPORT

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1st Half

A tough gig for Parramatta in Friday’s clash of the West Sydney powerhouses, going to Penrith Stadium where the home side’s last loss at the grounds pre-dated COVID-19.

It didn’t take long for Penrith to get on the scoreboard and look like extending that home record by another notch. After being gifted the ball inside Parramatta’s 20 metre zone by an Eels error, and a set restart, the Panthers went to the blind side on the right two tackles in a row, the second of which produced a try for Dylan Edwards who crashed through Tom Opacic. The conversion was made to look easy and the Panthers led the Eels 6-0 five minutes into the match.

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The game became an arm wrestle following the Panthers’ try, and there was plenty of feeling in the game, showcased by a bunch of hard tackles. This brewed over in the 15th min between Jarome Luai v Reed Mahoney – and then friends – with a minor melee while play was going on infield. The end result was a penalty to the Eels.

Parramatta hit back not long after the scuffle. Viliami Penisini attempted to crash over close to the line from dummy half, and although the Panthers’ stern defence was able to stop Penisini from scoring, they were unable to stop the centre from a great offload, and Clint Gutherson was unmarked waiting in support and dived over to score. The conversion was good and the score 6-4. At the same time Viliame Kikau left the field, he was lying on the ground near where the Eels crashed over from.

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The Eels nearly scored again a few minutes after Shaun Lane provided the perfect deft grubber close to the line, but Hayze Perham couldn’t quite keep his leg in play when diving on the ball.

Parramatta were on top at this point of the first half, and they did hit the front through their second try of the evening in the 25th minute. The four pointer was awarded by the video referee as a penalty try, after it was judged that Reed Mahoney was denied a try after being held back by a Panthers defender before he accepted a beautiful offload close to the line by Lane. It was probably fair enough too, as Mahoney fell about an inch short despite the attention. The conversion in front gave the Eels a 10-6 lead.

The lead didn’t last long, as the Panthers struck back, this time through Brian To’o returning back from injury. Or so thought most of the people watching the match. The Panthers winger had scored after receiving a great flick pass from Stephen Crichton, but it was struck off after the video referee judged a Liam Martin decoy run nuisance enough to Dylan Brown’s ability to stop To’o. It was probably technically correct, but still.

Both sides continued to play fast and hard for the remaining part of the first half with big hits and some great attacking play, and the Panthers looking the more likely side to score. With is exactly what happened with just a minute to go until half-time.

The Panthers went to the left with a minute to go and an unlikely grubber from Kikau found an unmarked Taylan May who scooped up the ball to dive over. A rare missed conversion by Nathan Cleary ensured the scores were level at half-time. They were quite lucky though Penrith, as it looked as if a pretty obvious knock on from Kikau was missed by the match officials leading up to the try.

HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 10 Parramatta Eels 10

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2nd Half

The 10-all scoreline was a perfect reflection on the game early in the second half, which both sides giving plenty, but also giving nothing away at the same time. It had to be said that Penrith were increasingly looking the more likely to score the next try and the second half wore on.

The Panthers came close in the 54th minute when a neat grubber forced a mistake and a fresh set of six tackles 10 metres out from the Eels’ line. After going close on the right, the Panthers went left with the usual suspects involved, and an increasingly regular try scorer in May crossing in the corner. Kikau had the pick of the lead up passes to the left, with a lightning quick tap on to Izack Tago who then set up May for his second of the night. A second missed conversion left the score at 14-10.

Parramatta started to apply a little more pressure to the Panthers as the half wore on, and they were soon rewarded with their third try of the game. After forcing a drop out Parramatta scored on the next set as Gutherson dodged an oncoming Cleary and a great run from Ryan Matterson found that gap running a great line and he charged over the line from 10 metres. Mitchell Moses made the conversion easily, and Parramatta were now in front 16-14.

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The Panthers were shocked at the very next set as the Eels increased their lead with back-to-back tries. The Eels put up the standard bomb kick on the last tackle, and Edwards let the ball bounce, and the ball bounced best for Eels five-eighth Brown, who charged onto the ball and towards the line to score despite plenty of attention close to the line. With under 10 minutes to go, and after a successful conversion, Parramatta led 22-14. This would test the credentials of the Panthers.

Parramatta came close to extending their lead in the sets straight the try, but the Panthers’ defence held them off and eventually turned the defence into attack. Penrith needed to though, as the eight-point gap remained between the sides but the minutes remaining were evaporating.

With just over two minutes to go the Panthers did reduce the gap to two points, with Spencer Leniu scoring. It was a relatively soft try as Api Koroisau found the Panthers forward charging close to the line and making light work of the Eels’ goal-line defence. Cleary quickly slotted the conversion and the Panthers were two behind with a minute to play.

Running out of time to draw level with just a minute to go, Cleary attempted a two-point field goal, but it wasn’t one of his better field goal attempts and essentially ended Penrith’s chances of keeping their long home record in tact.

The Eels slowly played out the last seconds of the match, but thoroughly deserved their win over their western rivals. Parramatta have now beaten the invincible-looking Penrith and Melbourne this season, a great way of proving they could be a real force later in the season in the tight finals matches as they search for an elusive NRL title.

For Penrith – they are beatable: something that looked the opposite from most of their games this season. They did dominate large parts of the game, but the Eels’ defence was strong, and the Panthers’ attack not quite as effective. You get the feeling that there’s still plenty to come from the Panthers.

FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 20 Parramatta Eels 22

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTS

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3 pts – Clint Gutherson (Eels), 2 pts – Viliame Kikau (Panthers), 1 pt – Dylan Edwards (Panthers)

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