Penrith ease past Eels in feisty trial
The Panthers have run away with a comfortable win over the Eels at Pepper Stadium in each team's final trial of the pre-season in what was a fiery and entertaining clash.
For Penrith, centre Tyrone Peachey had a blockbusting match while fullback Matt Moylan and five-eighth Te Maire Martin came into their own in the second half as the side laid on a few late tries against what was by then largely a Wentworthville Magpies line-up.
Bryce Cartwright's adventurous offloads mostly found their mark and he set up one try from lock as Martin and Nathan Cleary's developing halves combination continued its improvement.
For the Eels, fullback Bevan French was easily his team's most dangerous player, conjuring a couple of line breaks, one or two dangerous kicks and his team's only try. Starting back-rowers Tepai Moeroa and Manu Ma'u were both very strong, along with new props Suaia Matagi and Nathan Brown.
Parramatta's makeshift halves pairing of rookie halfback Troy Dargan and five-eighth Clint Gutherson tried hard but lacked the polish to take advantage of a series of attacking chances.
The main injury concern came for Penrith front rower Sam McKendy, having his first hit-out after a knee reconstruction last year, who lasted less than 20 minutes before being assisted from the field with what looked to be another knee injury.
Centre Waqa Blake was hampered by a leg injury in the second half though it didn't force him from the field however a nasty head knock suffered by Sitaleki Akauola running into David Gower ended his night early.
The first half remarkably finished without a point scored despite plenty of chances for both teams, with goal-line defence a strong feature in a half also laden with penalties and handling errors. There were so many penalties that Henry Perenara eventually sent Isaah Yeo to the sin bin after having already spoken to both captains about the number of ruck infringements.
Impressive Eels prop Suaia Matagi was tackled just short, a perfect Bevan French chip for Semi Radradra had to be taken dead by Penrith, and Eels winer Josh Hoffman grounded a Clint Gutherson chip but he was already touching the dead ball line.
For Penrith, good footwork from Moses Leota put Tim Browne over but he was held up, winger Peta Hiku was bundled touch-in-goal after a nice lead-up from his inside man Peachey and the best play of the half – which passed through at least 20 pairs of hands – finished with a Nathan Cleary grubber that was slightly too heavy for his chasers.
The second half continued in a similar vein with both coaches keeping most of their top players on.
First points eventually came in the 47th minute when Moylan shaped to launch an attacking kick before firing a nice pass that put Te Maire Martin through a gap for the opening try.
French conjured a miraculous play shortly after, faking a pass to then shoot through a gap before grubbering ahead, regathering and grubbering again but it didn't lead to points.
When rookie Eels half Troy Dargan was replaced by Jamal Fogarty, the Burleigh Bears recruit set up his team's first try with his very first touch, holding up a nice pass to put French into space. Clint Gutherson slotted the straightforward conversion.
Leilani Latu barged over off a nice Cartwright pass to reclaim the lead before Eels coach Brad Arthur pulled his top-graders from the field.
Shortly after, Martin put in a nice pass for a Moylan line break then backed up the next play to loft a nice cross-field bomb for Dean Whare to score. Cleary's sideline conversion made it 18-6 and while Penrith came close a few times there were no further points.
Penrith Panthers 18 (Martin, Latu, Whare tries; Cleary 3 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 6 (French try, Gutherson goal) at Pepper Stadium.