Eels hold off late-finishing Panthers
Parramatta have made it back-to-back wins while consigning Penrith to a horror two-from-six start to the season after edging an 18-12 win at ANZ Stadium on Saturday afternoon on the back of a Corey Norman masterclass.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the Eels who lost stand-in five-eighth Brad Takairangi to a suspected PCL injury just before half time, but Norman was in sublime form, scoring two tries and showing off his kicking, passing and running games to great effect as the Eels racked up an 18-0 lead after 45 minutes.
The Eels were poor over the final half hour of the match however, coming up with a mountain of errors to help a completely lost-looking Penrith side back into a game they shouldn’t have been a chance of taking out.
The rot started for Penrith from the opening kick-off when the returning Bryce Cartwright and James Tamou allowed the ball to roll over the dead-ball for a drop-out. It got worse shortly after when Cartwright made a meal of a Brad Takairangi grubber in the in-goal allowing Corey Norman to open the scoring before Penrith had touched the ball.
A Clint Gutherson penalty goal made it 8-0 after 15 minutes and it was getting out of hand for Penrith when Michael Jennings crossed in the 25th minute but the try was overruled by the bunker for a knock on by Gutherson in the lead-up.
Penrith failed to capitalise on a few attacking sets through the half before a precision Norman cross-field kick landed in the lap of a flying Semi Radradra to score and take the Eels to half-time by 12 points in front.
Things didn't get much better for the Panthers after the resumption with Kaysa Pritchard bursting into space from dummy half to lay if back for a supporting Gutherson whose skilful grubber sat up for Norman to score his second try of the game.
At 18-0 up it was all Eels but the blue and golds took their foot right off the gas with a string of errors that helped Penrith back into the game. The struggling outfit had countless plays inside the Eels 20 without looking like scoring until the weight of possession finally told when Peta Hiku crossed in the corner off a regulation overlap.
Some uninspired play from both teams saw Penrith continue to have the better of field position without being able to cash in, largely by virtue of some poor last-tackle options.
A mountain of possession late in the game and a couple of line drop outs forced eventually saw impressive rookie Corey Harawira-Naera stroll through some tired defence to make it 18-12 with just over two minutes to play.
When Isaah Yeo spilled a Cartwright pass in the set after points it took the wind out of the sails and last rites were delivered when the Eels collected a desperate Tyrone Peachey offload seconds before the final siren.
Parramatta Eels 18 (Norman 2, Radradra tries; Gutherson 3 goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 12 (Hiku, Harawira-Naera tries; Cleary 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Eels 12-0. Crowd: 14,070.