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A potentially season-ending shoulder injury to five-eighth Jarome Luai will be the most concerning aspect for Ivan Cleary, despite the Panthers being thumped 32-18 by the Parramatta Eels in front of 21,525 on a sold out Thursday night at BlueBet Stadium.
Luai landed awkwardly under a Bryce Cartwright tackle in the first half, dislocating his shoulder, leaving the Panthers sweating on the results of scans tomorrow.
It was a rare off night for the Panthers, who were celebrating Liam Martin’s 100th first grade game and Jesse McLean’s debut, however the Eels, likely playing their final game of the season, came out firing to claim bragging rights in the local derby and open the door for the Broncos to snatch the minor premiership.
The Panthers looked to set the tone from the opening minute, forcing Dylan Brown to put in the opening kick from his own 30. It was the Eels who opened the scoring though, with Maika Sivo crossing inside four minutes after Tyrone Peachey knocked on coming out of trouble. Clint Gutherson landed a spectacular conversion from the sideline to make the score 6-0.
They thought they were in again in the tenth minute when Daejarn Asi put Ryan Matterson over. The bunker overturned the on-field try ruling when replays revealed that McLean had knocked the ball out, causing a knock on.
A penalty late in the tackle count gifted the Panthers field position, taking full advantage when they shifted left before Tom Jenkins found Peachey back on the inside. Nathan Cleary’s conversion bounced away off the upright, leaving the score at 6-4.
The Eels extended their lead in the 20th minute when Sivo found more space on the left wing, with a high tackle by McLean in the process resulting in a potential 8-point try. Gutherson’s first conversion attempt sailed wide, however he landed the second from in front.
Sivo completed his hat trick four minutes later when the Panthers edge defence rushed in, with Gutherson converting from the sideline again to extend the lead to 18-4.
The Eels goal line defence proved as good as their attack, with a pair of magnificent trysavers by Bryce Cartwright and Joey Lussick holding the Panthers out.
The Eels struck a further blow in the dying minutes of the half, with Gutherson dummying and slicing through to extend the lead to 22-4.
Luck smiled down on the Eels to start the second half, gaining a penalty for an offside kick chase after Maika Sivo knocked on. It proved crucial as Gutherson scored his second down the other end, pushing the score out to 28-4.
The Panthers were determined to keep the game alive, eventually scoring in the 65th minute when Stephen Crichton batted a short drop out down to Cleary to touch down behind the posts.
The Eels suffered an injury blow of their own in the process, with Gutherson finally succumbing to a knee injury after trying to run it out.
Sivo scored his fourth try with eight minutes remaining to put any fears of a comeback to rest, before Liam Martin marked the occasion with a try inside the final five.
Tom Jenkins put on another consolation try in the final minutes, cutting the final margin to 32-18.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 – Clint Gutherson (Eels)
2 – Maika Sivo (Eels)
1 – Bryce Cartwright (Eels)