Eels v Panthers: Five key points
Penrith stole a thrilling last-gasp win in the battle of the west at Pirtek Stadium with a try after the siren. Here are five talking points from their 20-18 victory.
Moylan makes winning return
Matt Moylan ran out onto the field in a game of top-flight rugby league for the first time in 310 days. The last, at Pepper Stadium against the Eels, ended after 11 minutes with a serious ankle injury that ended his season before a stress fracture in his back delayed his return this year.
While he said after the game he felt a little rusty, his performance belied this assessment; he was safe as houses at the back, involved heavily in attack and defence, passed and kicked and organised well and produced a sublime tap-on – remarkably reminiscent of the one produced by Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco against Cronulla a day earlier – to set up a Josh Mansour try that kept his side's hopes alive late in the contest.
"I was just happy to get the first game out of the way and get a win," Moylan said, adding he pulled up well physically.
"It's going to take a few weeks to find my feet – I haven't played much footy over the past year, so I was just happy to get out there and get early involvement and just build it from there."
Eels let go of another close one
A mark of Parramatta's impressive three wins in their first four games was a defensive resilience but more impressively a psychological strength – a belief in each other and their systems, that even though points weren't flowing they were able to defend their line, defend their errors, and grind out wins against good attacking teams in the Cowboys, Bulldogs and Wests Tigers. It was notable because they made such a habit of letting winning positions slip last year.
To concede two tries in the final seven minutes to lose from a winning position was therefore the last thing coach Brad Arthur wanted from his side.
"It's tough; 18-12 with seven minutes left. We've just got to be better," Arthur said.
"Out of the last nine sets we only had two of them. It's hard to keep turning up and making those tackles but two tries in the last seven minutes is not good enough."
He was however pleased with the effort despite the finish.
"They're trying their backsides off. We're creating a lot of opportunities that we're not making the most of. We need to learn," Arthur said.
"With seven minutes to go, regardless of the decision (to reverse a scrum feed) – it's got nothing to do with it, two tries is not good enough with seven minutes to go. We need to be better than that."
Breakout game for Cartwright
Two tries with a third disallowed in a dominant 80-minute performance that also boasted 27 tackles, 123 running metres, three tackles breaks, one offload and two line breaks – Bryce Cartwright had his best game of the year by far.
Touted as an Origin bolter by plenty, Cartwright probably hadn't done his chances too much good over an inconsistent opening month of the year.
But coming back from a dislocated thumb that ended his Round 4 duties early, Cartwright was in everything against the Eels.
"He's getting a bit better every week, Bryce," was Griffin's assessment.
"By his own standards, he had a slow start to the year. The thing I'm happiest with is his defence. He's become a lot more solid on that edge even though it got a bit loose there at times.
"But he's playing 80 minutes and getting his job done. He's got another couple of tries there tonight – he's going very well."
Bunker provides a turning point
With the Eels clinging to an 18-12 lead late in the piece, an attacking Penrith set full of hard running and offloads helped them surge downfield and threaten to square the ledger. However a loose pass meant the Eels got a chance to feed a scrum at their own line and attempt to close out the game.
While the scrum was packing the bunker detected a knock on from Eels forward Kenny Edwards before Penrith's infringement and intervened. Mansour scored from that set and the rest is history.
Arthur was disappointed by what he said is an inconsistency in when the bunker chooses to intervene but refused to blame it for the loss.
"I think there's been a couple of times this year in previous games here they could've reversed a decision because they got them really wrong," Arthur said.
"They're not going to get everything right... I'm just not sure when they will come in and overcall it and when they won't."
Despite being the beneficiaries on this occasion, Panthers coach Anthony Griffin was less than complimentary of the bunker's input over the first five rounds.
"I'm the same as most coaches – it's Russian roulette," Griffin said, possibly in reference to an overturned try to Bryce Cartwright in the first half due to an offside ruling.
"You don't know what's going to happen. I'd like to be able to tell you but just the basic rules of the game as you saw there tonight, going out the window. But I'll shut up now."
Wallace excels at dummy half
It's not as if Panthers halfback-turned-hooker Peter Wallace has never played dummy half before. But for someone who has exclusively been a halfback for his entire career he's making a mighty fine fist of it.
Aside from a few games as a bench hooker on his way out of Brisbane, Wallace hasn't played hooker at NRL level since three games there for Penrith in late 2007.
But with James Segeyaro still a few weeks away after having surgical pins put into a fractured wrist, Wallace's strong form means that's one less problem for Griffin.
With 44 running metres from six well-selected scoots, two tackle breaks and one crafty dart-over try from dummy half – as well as two well-placed kicks and 26 tackles defending closer to the middle – Wallace is proving the complete package as a No.9.