A resolute defensive display from a scrappy Panthers outfit has proved enough to hand a struggling Parramatta Eels their fifth straight loss of the season with a 12-6 result at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
The match featured some fairly stilted attack and low completion rates – plus high penalty counts – from both teams.
The Eels had no shortage of attacking opportunities and enjoyed the lion's share of the ball but asked very few questions of the Penrith defence, which regularly rushed up to shut down the time Eels halves Corey Norman and Mitch Moses had to look for options.
However the Panthers themselves also looked a shadow of the team that completely dominated the Cowboys in Townsville last week; while the likes of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and James Fisher-Harris made a huge statement through the middle, halfback James Maloney wasn't able to exert the same dominance.
While the Eels showed an almost complete refusal to look for second-phase play or off-the-cuff football, a change in approach in the closing stages helped them look more threatening.
Penrith had got on the board in just the fifth minute through a Maloney penalty goal but a Dylan Edwards error from the restart handed the ball back to the Eels.
It was from that set the Panthers conceded a penalty that allowed a Kaysa Pritchard quick tap to catch Merrin offside. Referee Henry Perenara had no hesitation in sending the prop to the sin-bin for a professional foul.
Match: Eels v Panthers
Round 5 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
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Tim Mannah repaid the favour in almost identical circumstances shortly after Merrin's return and unlike Penrith – who held their line for the 10 minutes they were down to 12 men – the Eels cracked almost immediately.
James Maloney caught Michael Jennings out of position to put in a perfect chip kick for Josh Mansour to score in the 20th minute.
While Parramatta looked largely bereft of ideas in their regular journeys into Penrith's red zone, they did create one gilt-edged chance in the 27th minute through a left-edge overlap only for Josh Hoffman to drop the ball with the line begging.
Michael Jennings went close on the opposite flank five minutes later while James Maloney looked to have scored five minutes from half-time only to be denied by an obstruction from James Tamou taking out Will Smith.
Maloney added a second penalty goal on the stroke of half-time for a 10-0 lead at the break.
The Eels desperately needed to be next to score and they got their wish shortly after the resumption as a mix up between Dylan Edwards and Josh Mansour from a Mitch Moses grubber handed George Jennings his second try in his second game for the club.
The 10-6 scoreline held firm through almost the entire second half as each team's defence proved more than up to the task of handling their opponent's attacking plays.
With Penrith turning away a few late attacking raids, a late Maloney penalty goal sealed the 12-6 result.