Wild West Showdown Doesn’t Disappoint!

RIDING a 21 home-game winning streak, and with 8 in a row this season, the Panthers clash against their hot and cold neighbours, the Eels last Friday night was expected to be a lot closer than most thought. What most also thought (besides the Parra faithful) was a Panthers victory, and quite comfortably.  

But it was evident from the early exchanges that the Parramatta team that were humbled 35-4 by the Cowboys a week prior were nowhere to be seen. 

This was a new look Eel. More intense, more committed, more everything compared to their previous foray. In fact after Dylan Edwards strolled across for a rather simple try in the 6th minute of play, the feel around the stadium was that the Panthers unbelievable streak would continue. But Parra obviously didn’t read the script. A try to Gutho soon after saw GAME ON!

A 26th minute penalty try to Reed Mahoney seemed to be a turning point of the match with both teams locked at 10 all for the halftime break. Taylan May’s double of tries just before and just after oranges saw the mountain men edge their way into the lead 14-10. Then a try to Matterson another to Brown, suddenly it was the Eels 22 Penrith 14 with 9 minutes to go. 

A late 79th minute try to Spencer Leniu bridged the gap to a two point deficit and that’s where the game ended. 

In what was a dramatic victory for the Eels over last year’s premiers was orchestrated by origin front rower Junior Paulo. He was epic against his fierce rivals, and laid a great platform for the rest of his team to follow. 

Isaiah Papali’i was also strong for the Eels with 22 carries for close to 200m covered, only marginally behind Paulo who had 23 runs for 210m. 

For the Panthers their two wingmen May and To’o ran for 190m and 260m respectively with the latter welcomed back after a long lay off with an MCL injury. Billy Kikau was ferocious on occasions too, but Parra just seemed too energetic on a night that bizarrely saw both the Panthers coaches Ivan Cleary (knee) and Cameron Ciraldo at home following Covid protocols, leaving attack coach Andrew Webster left with the clipboard. 

Given the coaches plight and a full house of fans heaving throughout Bluebet Stadium, the Panthers were still in the game up to the very end. A fact that would please all Panther fans and staff. For a rugby league team to be up for as long as the Panthers have been, and to win as many games as they have at home, this current footy team from the foot of the mountains are very special. It took a special performance to usurp the juggernaut. 

For Parramatta to be themselves considered a special footy team they must remain consistent with their performances. Another game or 4 like they played against the Panthers last Friday night would have them well on their way. Problem is they don’t play the Panthers each week, where they visibly show a lot more exertion when they do. For the Panthers it doesn’t get any easier this week as they travel to Brisbane with every other club to partake in Magic Round, where they take on the might of the Melbourne Storm. 

Bring it on! See you at the game…