Panthers progress with derby win
The Penrith Panthers have stunned cross-town rivals the Parramatta Eels 13-0 in the first of the Downer Auckland Nines semi-finals to book their spot in the decider later in the afternoon.
Penrith's young guns continued to shock the rugby league world as they easily accounted for last year's winners who were without star playmaker Corey Norman (hamstring).
Bevan French has made a name for himself as one of the game's try-scoring elite, but it was his desperation in defence to deny Isaah Yeo a certain four-pointer that proved the biggest play of the opening exchanges.
The Panthers wouldn't be denied a second time as Waqa Blake scored an almost identical try to the one he produced in the quarter-final win over Manly, stepping through two Eels before out-sprinting Semi Radradra to the line.
Some frantic play by the Eels close to their line looked destined to lead to points, but not even French could take advantage of a broken line as Penrith's defence held firm to take a four-point lead into the break.
The Panthers started the second half with some measured kicks in behind the Parramatta defence, and the tactic paid dividends after four minutes when Malakai Watene-Zelezniak collected a 60-metre kick to double the lead.
Any hopes of Parramatta going back-to-back were extinguished two minutes from full-time when Blake cut back against the grain to power into the bonus zone to seal the win.
Panthers 13 (Waqa Blake 2, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak tries) def. Eels 0. Half-time: 4-nil