Three scores in six second half minutes proved pivotal for the Eels who overcame a stern test from a resilient Penrith side to maintain their position at the top of the NRL ladder.
It wasn’t plain sailing for the early pacesetters though as they trailed by 10 at half-time but once again they came out on the right side of a close scoreline to record five consecutive victories at the start of a league campaign for only the third time in the clubs history.
Story of the match
The hosts started the quicker of the two sides and they looked to have taken the lead after just five minutes when Ryan Matterson got on the end of Mitchell Moses’ high ball however after consulting with the TMO, it was deemed that Blake Ferguson had impeded Stephen Crichton in the build up and the score was chalked off.
The Panthers - who themselves were unbeaten coming into this clash - looked to have taken full advantage of that no-try decision when Dean Whare got on the end of Nathan Cleary’s dinked kick in-behind, however again the TMO overturned the referee’s on-field call, ruling that Whare had pushed Michael Jennings in the back before collecting the ball. The scores remained level.
Both sides have been praised for their defensive capabilities in the opening four rounds of the season and it was no different in this one, with the two Western Sydney rivals standing firm when defending their goal-lines.
The breakthrough came in the 22nd minute and it was the Panthers who got it. They worked the ball from left to right, finding Brian To’o on the right wing. The big five showed the footwork of a half to step inside Dylan Brown before powering his way over the line to touch down in the right corner. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful as the Panther’s took a deserved four-point lead.
The visitors furthered their lead shortly before half-time. On this occasion they worked the ball from right to left as Crichton found Josh Mansour on the overlap and the Penrith winger ran in unopposed to touch down in the corner. Massey adding the extras on this occasion to give the Panthers a 10-0 lead heading into the sheds.
The Eel’s unbeaten start looked in real jeopardy as they started the second-half but a three try, six-minute blitz, headed by former Panther Waqa Blake, turned the game on it’s head.
The first score came in the 62nd minute when Blake stiff-armed Crichton and powered over to get the Eels up and running before turning provider two minutes later as he broke through the Panthers line before popping the ball up to Clinton Gutherson who had enough speed to race away from the Panthers defenders to touch down and level the scoring.
The comeback was completed just three minutes later when Moses’ grubber kick in behind completely dumbfounded Caleb Aekins and bounced perfectly for Ryan Matterson to collect and crash over to give the hosts a six-point lead with 13 minutes to go.
Moses’ missed field-goal with three minutes to go looked as though it might be pivotal when the Panthers launched a last-gasp barrage on the Eels line however the Parramatta outfit stood strong as they held on for a famous victory.
What’s next for both sides?
The Eels title credentials will be handed the sternest of tests next time out as they travel to Sydney to take on the reigning champions, the Sydney Roosters.
The Panthers will be back on home turf as they welcome the Melbourne Storm to the Campbelltown Stadium as they look to bounce back from their first defeat of the campaign.