Parramatta have ended the Panthers' 21-game winning streak at BlueBet Stadium with two late tries stunning the defending premiers 22-20 in the Battle of the West on Friday night.
The Eels trailed 14-10 midway through the second half in front of a record sold-out crowd in Penrith before two pieces of brilliance from Ryan Matterson and Dylan Brown proved the difference in the end.
With the match sold out more than a week ago, the Eels were reeling after their 35-4 loss to the Cowboys in Darwin last week and muscled up in defence to sap the Panthers late.
The Panthers copped a double blow pre-game with coach Ivan Cleary (knee infection) and assistant Cameron Ciraldo (COVID-19) both missing the match, meaning fellow assistant Andrew Webster stepped in to lead the premiers.
Match: Panthers v Eels
Round 9 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
On the field and the Panthers had a double boost with Brian To'o (knee) and Moses Leota (shoulder) returning from injuries, with both making solid contributions after long lay-offs.
A double to Taylan May and stirring performance from Viliame Kikau helped the home side take a 14-10 lead midway through the second half after both teams traded two tries each in the opening 40 minutes.
But it was the Eels who held their nerve in the final quarter and matched it defensively to come up with the big plays at the death in a much-needed confidence boost after a week of criticism.
Brown pounces to increase the lead
- Penrith took just four minutes to open the scoring through Dylan Edwards when the crafty fullback went down the blindside and was too strong for Hayze Perham on the edge.
- Momentum began to swing in Parramatta's favour with centre Will Penisini taking advantage of Viliame Kikau requiring treatment on the left edge to take on the defence from close range before offloading for Clint Gutherson.
- Parramatta hit the lead through a Reed Mahoney penalty try. The Eels hooker was held back by Jaeman Salmon without the ball with the NRL Bunker deeming Mahoney would've scored from close range.
Eels awarded penalty try
- Eels winger Hayze Perham (knock on) and opposite number Brian To'o (obstruction) were both denied tries in the first half in close calls.
- Penrith scored a try before half-time to level the scores at 10-10. Viliame Kikau, who appeared to knock on in the lead-up, provided a deft grubber for Taylan May to score in-goal.
- May's double, finishing off a Kikau pass on the left edge, made him the fastest player to get to 10 tries for the club in eight games.
- The Eels led the offload count 19-5 in a lopsided result and clear indication of where the visitors were able to trouble the Panthers.
- It was Penrith's first defeat on home turf since July, 2019.
Kikau puts May over again
Play of the game
Brad Arthur's call to bring Ryan Matterson off the bench has proved a masterstroke this season with the Eels back-rower's big left-foot step on Dylan Edwards in the second half a match-winning effort late.
The Eels scored shortly after Matterson's but talking about big plays, there was none bigger than the effort from the bench forward.
Matterson puts Eels in front
What they said
"I said to the players after the game that in nine years now, that is the proudest I have been in my time at the club. On the back of four six-day turn-arounds, these guys are a really good football team, they haven't been beaten here for a while, we have only got 19 players out of our 28-man squad available and five blokes who couldn't train during the week because they were crook so it was a great effort. It is probably a little bit disappointing that we didn't play like that last week and compete as hard as last week. We have showed that when we compete hard and play the style of footy that works for us we can push teams to the 80th minute. That game came down the 80th minute and the game against the Storm came down past the 80th minute. We have got to make sure we are doing that every week,": Eels coach Brad Arthur.
Eels: Round 9
"Ivan was super chilled actually, like he always is. He was just ringing, checking in. He had the [knee] operation today and he was still hopeful he would be able to come but they said 'no way'. That was probably around lunch time and he was super confident in the boys, particularly with their leadership that they could get the job done. Cameron [Ciraldo] was constantly talking to Peter Wallace for defensive feedback and every now and again Ivan would check in. He was pretty happy with how we were going, particularly with 20 minutes to go. We were really happy with how aggressive we were in defence, it was just discipline that was letting them off the hook and they were excellent. They completed really high and had 55 per cent possession.": Panthers assistant coach Andrew Webster.
Panthers: Round 9
The western Sydney clubs head to Queensland next week with Penrith's ultimate test of the season coming in the form of Melbourne away at Suncorp Stadium. The Panthers haven't lost back-to-back games since last year during the Origin period but with their Origin stars you go as far back as 2020. The Eels will take on the Roosters in another blockbuster on Sunday afternoon.