Eels down Panthers in full-strength trial
The new-look Parramatta Eels have beaten the Penrith Panthers 22-8 in a four-tries-to-two affair at Pepper Stadium as their new stars showed some promising signs in their first hitout together.
Eels coach Brad Arthur should be pleased with his side's battery of forwards, who looked fit and powerful throughout as the team defended strongly, though both coaches will be unimpressed by a high error and penalty rate.
Star Eels recruit Kieran Foran linked well with the in-form Corey Norman but was solid rather than spectacular, and the pair combined well with new custodian Michael Gordon.
Norman, however, continued on with his form from the Auckland Nines player of the tournament gong with a great outing, producing the pass of the night on the Eels' left edge to send ex-Panther Michael Jennings over for his first try in blue and gold.
Jennings for his part defended well with some big hits and looked threatening with most touches. His outside man Semi Radradra was impeccable under the high ball but had little to do in attack.
There were plenty of good signs for the home side despite the loss; their two new props, Trent Merrin and Suaia Matagi, were both good but it was the less heralded Matagi who was more impressive.
Centre Waqa Blake looks in for a big year with some great touches (including a line break) and defensive reads. His highlight was a run through on a grubber from Bryce Cartwright – who continued his impressive pre-season form – to force a try with a miraculous grounding just inside the dead ball line.
Rookie forwards Leilani Latu and James Fisher-Harris were standouts for the Panthers, forcing veteran bookend Sam McKendry back to a NSW Cup trial earlier in the day.
Another man in for a big season is Eels lock Tepai Moeroa, who was also a massive handful and scored the opening try of the night charging onto a Nathan Peats short ball in front of the posts. He rounded out a bruising back-row effort from the Eels with Manu Ma'u, Kenny Edwards and Peni Terepo all impressive.
The second try of the night came from a right-side sweep from Penrith which was well-finished by Josh Mansour.
After going to half time with Parramatta up 12-8, the next try came at the 50-minute mark when winger Clint Gutherson was on the end of another great linkup from the Eels halves on the right edge.
Both coaches rung the changes from the 60-minute mark; Te Maire Martin got a run for Penrith while Gutherson showed some ball skills deputising at fullback for the Eels after Gordon took a well-earned break.
Junior Paulo completed the rout close to full-time, crashing over to make it 22-8, with Gutherson landing the final conversion.
There were no major injury concerns for either coach though Penrith lock Isaah Yeo was placed on report for a crusher tackle on Tim Mannah.
Parramatta Eels 22 (Moeroa, Jennings, Gutherson, Paulo tries; Gordon 2 goals, Gutherson goal) def. Penrith Panthers 8 (Mansour, Blake tries) at Pepper Stadium.