Parramatta cannot lose.
They did it last week and they did it again this week, improbably pulling victory from the realms of defeat.
Trailing 10-0 at the hour mark, the Eels first defeat of the season was growing in prominence. Three tries in six minutes turned the game on its head as Parramatta’s wildest dreams swiftly became reality.
The battle of the halves was a feature for the match, with both putting on a clinic. Mitchell Moses’ kicking game was electric, he finished with a try assist, as well as one that was disallowed, plus 439 kick metres. Nathan Cleary took Penrith’s game to a whole new dimension, his inclusion alone firming their place in the premiership conversation, finishing with 100 metres and 352 kick metres.
The Eels started with plenty of promise, Mitch Moses and Dylan Brown sliced through the Panther line early. Repeat attacking sets culminated in a Moses chip that Ferguson knocked back to Matterson who ran it over the line.
On Bunker review, it was found Ferguson illegally pushed the defender out of the contest and the try was disallowed.
The roles were reversed in an eerie instance of déjà vu, this time a Nathan Cleary orchestrated try disallowed on Bunker review after Dean Whare illegally pushed the defender out of the contest.
Viliame Kikau offloading in the heat of the battle
Kurt Capewell went down in the first minute, and it was later suspected he’d suffered a medial ligament injury and revealed he would play no further part in the game, dashing Penrith’s hopes.
Their fears were laid to rest before the half. Brian To’o received a hopping pass, stepped inside a scurrying Dylan Brown, and officially opened the Panthers’ account.
A combination of Stephen Crichton’s quick hands and poor Blake Ferguson decision making put Josh Mansour over for Penrith’s second try and a 10-0 lead at the half.
Viliame Kikau nearly extended the Panther lead to three tries after the break, but Clint Gutherson desperately held him up.
By Moses’ own admission, Parramatta “were too side to side in the 1st half”. It would take some time for their game plan to click, but once it did the results were enviable.
After testing out the Penrith defence for some time, Parramatta struck. Waqa Blake proved to be a thorn in the side of his old team, sitting Chrichton on the turf with a powering left palm, giving the Eels a sniff and cutting the margin to six.
Minutes later Blake was at it again, stepping through the line and opening Penrith up. He was ankle tapped by Kikau but it was too little too late, offloading to Gutherson who tumbled over the line tying the game up at 10 all.
Big forward Nathan Brown’s penetrating run lay the foundations for Parramatta’s third try in six minutes, gifting Moses precious seconds which he utilised to grubber towards the in-goal. A perfect bounce left Penrith full back Caleb Aekins stranded and Matterson sliding through the in-goal with ball in hand. 16-10.
n the final minutes Moses sprayed a field goal from point blank range, the only blemish on his stellar performance keeping Penrith alive.
The new found hope of sending the game to golden point after Moses’ miss, drove the Panthers’ strong finish. They would force three straight attacking sets to close out the contest, culminating in a frenzied scramble after the siren that saw nail’s bitten raw.
The Eels forward pack was bruising and focal in the victory. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Junior Paulo and Nathan Brown combining for 453 metres and nine tackle breaks in just 151 minutes game time between the three.
Parramatta celebrating after their big win
Parramatta have bragging rights in the west, and are 5-0 to start the season, a feat they have achieved only twice in their history. On both of those occasions in 1983 and 1986, they wound up premiers at seasons end.