2023 NRL Round 4: Eels 17, Panthers 16

The Parramatta Eels have avenged their 2022 Grand Final loss by defeating the Penrith Panthers 17-16 in Golden Point on Thursday night at CommBank Stadium.

Result

Parramatta Eels 17
Tries: (2) Bryce Cartwright 14th; Brendan Hands 56th
Goals:
(4) Mitchell Moses 15th, 26th, 58th, 64th
Field Goal: (1) Mitchell Moses 81st

Penrith Panthers 16
Tries: (2) Dylan Edwards 33rd; Zac Hosking 71st
Goals: (3) Nathan Cleary 35th, 39th, 72nd
Two Point Field Goal: (1) Nathan Cleary 80th

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Report

In a game that was as fiercely contested early as you would hope and expect for a Western Sydney derby, it was the Eels who put on the first points of the game when former Panther Bryce Cartwright chased a perfect Dylan Brown grubber best to slide in and score on the wet CommBank surface.

Parramatta had the upper hand after the first try as the Panthers looked a little bit rusty coming off the bye – continuing their quiet start to the 2023 season. The Eels extended the margin to eight points after a failed short dropout from Nathan Cleary. But Penrith hit back just before half-time as they carved up the Eels straight up the middle, with Isaah Yeo setting up the line break and the ever-present Dylan Edwards backing up to score. It was timely and against the flow of the game.

It sparked the Panthers whose attacked livened up and they were rewarded with a penalty goal just before the break when Maika Sivo looked to have mistaken Zac Hosking’s head for a lid on a Coke bottle. That left the 2022 Grand Final rematched deadlocked 8-8 at the break.

Penrith continued that late first half momentum by starting off the far brighter team in the second half, but it took some time for the next points to be added. Those points went to Parramatta when Brendan Hands, in a great piece of Nominative determinism, set up a line break before supporting back on the inside to score on his NRL debut just before the 60 minute mark. The conversion saw the Eels retake the lead 14-8. Before that Eels try happened Soni Luke left the field for the night.

Parramatta extended their lead to eight points when Mitchell Moses slotted a penalty earned from a late hit on himself after kicking. With a quarter of an hour to go, Penrith had to score twice to win. They fulfilled half of that requirement with a try with nine minutes to go through Hosking, running off a short pass close to the line from Cleary. Hosking was only a late inclusion when Liam Martin was unable to play. That left the margin at two points to the Eels and all to play for.

With the game on the line, Penrith dropped the ball early in their attacking set with two minutes to go and looked to have lost their only chance. But a penalty from a Junior Paulo high tackle with 17 seconds to go gave the Panthers one last chance, and Parramatta with one less player as Paulo was sent to the sin bin. That one last chance relied on Cleary nailing a 40 metre-plus two-point field goal with the final play of the game from the penalty restart, and the Panthers halfback held his nerve and snuck the ball just inside the posts to level the game.

So Golden Point it was, and there was early action when referee Ashley Klein levelled the sin bins when he gave Mitch Kenny 10 minutes in the bin as well for a high tackle. The resulting penalty gave the Eels a massive territory boost, and the Eels used that right up to the fifth tackle when the perfectly placed Moses slotted the winning field goal to seal the Western Sydney derby.

It was an intense, hard-fought game with very few errors, which saw momentum shift on a few occasions and even late in the game a few times. It was a good night for Parramatta Eels and Moses, as the news came out that the halfback has re-signed with the club on a multi-million, multi-year deal; and he kicked the winning goal that got some revenge for the 2022 Grand Final loss and secured their first win of the season. Penrith, meanwhile, are now one win and two losses, but were arguably at their best so far in 2023 on Thursday night.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTS

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3 – Dylan Edwards (Panthers)
2 – Mitchell Moses (Eels)
1 – Sunia Turuva (Panthers)

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