Panthers v Eels: Five key points
The Panthers came from behind once and threatened to do so again late in the game but the embattled Eels finally managed to close out a tight game. Here are five talking points from their 26-20 victory.
Report: Eels win injury-plagued local derby
Pauli Pauli "cheap shot" upsets Penrith
In the 50th minute, with Penrith desperately looking to come back from a 14-0 deficit, five-eighth Jamie Soward was crunched from behind by Eels giant Pauli Pauli after passing the ball.
In commentary Andrew Johns called it a "cheap shot" and it forced Soward off the field, needing a pain-killing injection before returning 10 minutes later, while Pauli Pauli was placed on report.
After the loss, the Panthers were irate that they had to do without a key playmaker for 10 minutes while the Eels were not disadvantaged for the foul play.
"I'm pretty sure I passed the ball well before I got hit," Soward said.
"We're at a stage at the moment where you can't get put in the bin, you can't get sent off.
"[Peter Wallace] asked the ref for ten in the bin and nothing. It just gets put on report... we lose a key playmaker for ten minutes [and] it just ends up being put on report."
Neither Cleary nor captain Peter Wallace wanted to comment much on the shot in the press conference, although Wallace said it seemed fair that if his side lost a player to foul play the opposition should have lost one to the sin bin.
"I've got an issue that we lost a player and nothing happened to them, he got put on report but we lost a pretty important player for 10 minutes to an illegal tackle so I don't know what you can do," he said.
Eels finally win one on goal kicking
If you add two points onto the Parramatta scorecard in place of each of their missed goals over the past two weeks they'd have won their past two games and be on 12 competition points, level with the fifth-placed Roosters. Now, clearly that counts for nothing, other than to highlight that those games have been close and the missed goals costly.
But in a welcome change of pace for the desperate Eels, Chris Sandow's radar was well and truly firing on Friday night as he nailed five goals from as many shots in the six-point win, helping the Eels close one out.
Arthur said there hadn't been any major changes during the week that led to the form reversal from the kicking tee.
"They [the kickers] work hard every week," he said.
"Going into each game, last week they kicked 15 from 18 the day before at training. Sometimes it's just the occasion and maybe last week was just the occasion. We needed to win."
Sandow said a big week of training with kicking coach Luke Burt had paid off.
"Me and Burty have been working really hard you know, Burty was a great kicker at the club, he's got the record there so me and Burty have been working really hard and we worked really hard this week and it paid off tonight," he said.
His clubmate Nathan Peats told NRL.com the Eels' fast start – two tries in the opening seven minutes – took the pressure off and allowed Sandow to relax without having the game riding on his conversions.
"I think Chrissy's goal kicking was very good, he's been under the pump the last couple of weeks and I think that was the difference in the end too," he said.
"I think 'BA' [Arthur] said last week when the pressure's on it makes those easy kicks a lot harder. We started off well and there was no pressure on him really and that's when he's at his best."
Panthers can't cop a break with injury... now Moylan goes down
Penrith hasn't had its first-choice 1-6-7-9 combination all together since Round 2, with halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace missing serious game time – often at the same time – along with gun hooker James Segeyaro.
Wallace's return from a knee issue on Friday night meant the four were finally reunited, but it lasted all of 10 minutes before Moylan was carried off with a suspected medial ligament strain, forcing Isaah Yeo to centre and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to fullback.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said Moylan had a "significant" injury but wasn't sure if he had a fracture or how long the fullback would be out.
"It's a significant injury, whether it's fractured or not I don't know but it's a significant injury," he said.
The Eels had injury woes of their own with centre Brad Takairangi seeming to pick up an ankle issue and spending time out on the wing with Semi Radradra at centre, while Tim Mannah also left the field late in the game with what looked to be a wrist injury.
Good and bad news for Origin hopefuls
There have been reports Penrith five-eighth Jamie Soward is being looked at as a possible replacement for Trent Hodkinson for the Blues' must-win visit to Melbourne for Origin II.
The AC joint injury he suffered could put him out past that date but even if it forces him to miss just one game that would mean he won't play again between now and Origin II. And while he didn't play badly by any stretch, the fact his side lost at home to the team running last wouldn't have done anything to advance his claims.
The news was worse for NSW squad member Matt Moylan, whose medial strain and potential fracture seems likely to put him out of the rest of the Origin series, which will become a much harder pill to swallow if Josh Dugan or any other member of the Blues backline picks up an injury that puts them out of Origin.
The news was better over in the winners' sheds where Eels rake Nathan Peats racked up 51 tackles and eight runs in a winning team as he eyes a chance to step in for Blues skipper Robbie Farah, who is racing the clock with an AC joint injury of his own to retain the sky blue No.9 jersey for Game Two.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a thought of it over the last couple of days but it's out of my hands, I've just got to play for Parra and do the best I can," Peats said.
"If they go that way they go that way but it's out of my hands, I'm not really thinking about that, I'm just glad to get the two points tonight and we've got a big game against Cowboys next week."
With Dragons flanker Brett Morris looking increasingly likely to bump out either Rooster Daniel Tupou or Parramatta's Will Hopoate for the second game, a very strong all-round game from the latter boosted his chances of being retained. Hopoate ran strongly for 127 metres and two tackle breaks and laid on the opening try for Ryan Morgan.
Crazy comebacks all the rage but Eels never lost hope
Canberra's surge from 26-0 down against Canterbury last week to draw level at 34-all before going on to lose will take some beating, but Penrith almost managed two separate comebacks against the Eels.
Down 14-0 at half-time they scored the next three tries to level up at 14-all, then at 26-14 down they scored once to get back within six and came agonisingly close to levelling up again on a couple of other occasions.
While Panthers fans never gave up hope, Eels fans – who saw their side let a 12-10 lead against Souths slip away late in the game last week – were thinking 'not again'.
Parra players weren't thinking that way though, insisting they never lost the belief that if they could turn around the tide of possession that was starting to count against them they'd be able to close the game out.
"No [I wasn't worried], because I've seen what they've been doing for the past month and how hard they've been working," Arthur said.
"Everything we did tonight was a response and not a reaction. At 14-all we finally got some ball. I think it was 11 sets to 4 [against us] to start the second half.
"First set we got down there we put on a try. I think we've showed that if we complete – we completed 80 per cent in the first half and had 51 per cent possession. If we can do that, we're giving ourselves a good chance."