It is a gorgeous day out at Blacktown as the Parramatta Eels look to secure a berth in the Harold Matthews grand final. HE Laybutt Field looks as pretty as a picture and the conditions match it well as the Eels take on the Penrith Panthers. The Eels are coming off a bye after finishing the regulation season in second and will hopefully explode out of the blocks on the back of fresh legs and boundless enthusiasm. Kick off is imminent so strap yourselves in for a barn burner!
The Eels will be kicking off to start this sudden death final. Patrick Spence gets us underway and Penrith begin to ruck it out of their red zone. Their fullback makes a strong early carry up the middle to take paly into Parra’s half but the Eels recover and Spence does a superb job under pressure to defuse the attacking bomb.
Tough sledding for the Eels in return as Penrith tee of in defence. The clearing kick comes from Ethan Sanders and he finds touch on Penrith’s 25m mark. Deft kick right there.
A much better defensive set the second time around for Parramatta as Spence calmly takes the kick on the last once more. The Eels punch their way into Penrith’s half for the first time today and a terrific kick chase traps the Panthers on their 10m line. Indeed it is Penrith who blink first today as they cough the ball up on halfway in a regulation tackle. Chance for the Eels to attack the Penrith goal line this set.
Saxon Pryke is met strongly from the scrum win but Declan Murray makes a nice gain down the left on the following tackle. Josh Lealaiauloto steam rolls a defender on the third and the Eels build momentum from there. They go their right on the last as Blaize Talagi takes on the line and finds Charlie Guymer on the short ball. Guymer shakes his defender off and links up with Suliasi Aho who says thank you very much and touches down in the corner!
Try scored by Suliasi Aho. Conversion unsuccessful by Ethan Sanders.
Eels lead 4-0
Quality opening hit up from big Aufag Mino here. Parramatta obviously looking to get through the set after points now. Charlie Guymer has a strong carry to push the Eels over halfway and Sanders sends the pill up high to give his chase plenty of time to effect the tackle. Textbook post points set there.
First heart flutter for the Eels at the end of Penrith’s next set. Spence loses the bomb backwards and it is then knocked on by a Penrith chaser. Unfortunately the first lapse leads to a second as Myles Martin grasses the short ball from Yehya Ayache. Penrith get a prime opportunity to hit back now.
They play to their left initially before switching play back to the middle but it is all in slow motion early in this set. They play at a faster tempo down their right and break a tackle or two but the Eels hold on and the kick on the last is too heavy and results in a 20m restart.
A great charge from big Sam Tuivati puts Parramatta into Penrith’s half and they run the ball on the last. Patrick Spence shows some class and style to swerve past a defender and open up play down the Eels’ left but his last pass to Lealaiauloto is intercepted! Oh what a play from the Penrith winger to save the try!
The first penalty of the game falls to Penrith as the Eels are caught inside the 10m mark. Play resumes midfield with Dom De Stradis making a good tackle. The Panthers are looking for some second phase ball here before attacking their left edge short side. The Eels mark up well but the Penrith fullback Liam Ison has an incisive dart down Parra’s left edge. They bomb back to their left on the last and their is a clear knock on from the Penrith chaser but the referee is going to award the try! Thankfully the touch judge on that side intervenes to overrule the play on call and the correct decision is reached.
The blue and gold pile more pressure on themselves here as a loose offload is pulled up by the referee. It probably went backwards to be honest but it was wayward enough to give the ref the chance to call it up. It proves to be a costly error as well as the Penrith Panthers crack the right edge of the Eels from the following set. It is their dummy half Billy Scott that splits the front line of defence and Spence can’t cut him down before he gets over in the far corner.
Try scored by Billy Scott. Conversion unsuccessful.
Penrith lock the scores up at 4-all
Like the Eels before them the Panthers complete a tidy set after points. Big Suliasi Aho cleans up the kick with ease. Parramatta look to counterpunch with some strong carries from Guymer and Jacob Johns with the latter trying to slip an offload to a flying Sanders. The ball is dropped but it was advantage Parramatta for offside defenders.
A sweeping backline play from left to right see Guymer nearly crash over before he is held up and play comes back to the 10m line as a result. Myles Martin takes a settler before the Eels work left to Johns but sloppy play on the next tackle leads to a drop. Looked like there was some confusion on a worked dummy half play and the knock on quickly turns into a penalty as an offside Eel plays at the ball.
Penrith test the Eels’ right edge once more and while it teeters momentarily they do manage to hold on and earn a 7-tackle restart. Blaize Talagi has a nice involvement as he pinches 15m and his partner in crime in Ethan Sanders very nearly scores a couple of plays later as he dances through the line and is tackled a metre short. Once more the Eels run it on the last as they look to iso up Guymer against his opposite and the centre explodes onto the pass to score but the touch judge has pulled it up for a forward pass!
A simple set now for the Eels as the the wingers combine for a powerful start before Jacob Johns steams onto the pill for a big gain. An extended play on the last down the left eventually sees Declan Murray link back up with Sanders who kicks crossfield for Guymer. He links up with Aho who sorties back infield and it stopped at the very last gasp! This game is seesawing wildly at the moment.
There is some frenetic play as the seconds count down in the first half but neither team can get anything cooking and that brings a crazy first half to a close.
Parramatta Eels 4 Penrith Panthers 4
Penrith to kick off in the second half.
Gee, Johns and Genesis Talagi Seuala provide some serious grunt in the opening set of the half. Genesis in particular pancaked a defender before the Eels went on to complete their set. Alas, two sets later those very same forwards combine to drop the ball as Genesis coughs up a simple pass.
BLAZIE TALAGI! We raved about his defence a couple of weeks ago against the Thunderbolts and he jams a Panther into next season right now! Forces the error with a dominant read and tackle!
Talagi and Spence combine in next set as the fullback tries to get something cooking down the right but the Panthers track him well to make the tackle. Talagi kicks crossfield on the last but the contested kick is taken in goals for a 20m restart.
Tempers flare up now as a challenge on the Penrith kicker leads to a penalty. Some jawing between the Parramatta tackler and the Penrith fullback leads to the Panthers surrounding the Eel before the fracas evaporates.
The Panthers elect to take a shot at the penalty goal.
Penalty conversion successful.
Penrith lead 6-4
Some great scramble defence from the Eels nullifies a make-shift running play on Penrith’s last and Parramatta’s riposte against the retreating defence leads to Ayache copping a dangerous throw. The penalty to the Eels takes them over halfway.
Spence duck and weaves down the right but is pulled up and Talagi has a crack himself after. Left now as Sanders feed the nugget that is Joshua Alzahim throws the first defender off. GET OFF ME he says. He barely loses his stride as he sets sail for the goal line and the stocky bench weapon smashes his way over to give the Eels back the lead!
Try scored by Joshua Alzahim. Conversion unsuccessful by Ethan Sanders.
Eels lead 8-6
Great effort from Pryke there. After initially bobbling the ball he showed some powerful leg drive to push over the advantage line. Jacob Johns is right in the slot for another positive run and the Eels complete the set with a well weighted bomb that is equally well taken by the Panthers.
Gee wizz that was an incredible team effort! The Panthers looked to have scored a long range try down their left as the Penrith portion of the crowd roars but the Eels made the save! The Eels then scramble to the other side of the field on the last to shut down the play against all the odds!
Penrith regain possession on the back of a clear 2-on-1 strip but the ref is oblivious and lets play go on.
Guymer continue his whale of a game with some valuable metres down the right and the Eels finally get a penalty when Talagi has the ball reefed out extremely late in the tackle.
Aho and John get the early carries here before Alzahim causes some panic for the Panthers on the left. Yehya Ayache sums it up beautifully as he jumps out of dummy up and holds it up long enough for the defence to bite on the short ball before diving over himself under the uprights!
Try scored by Yehya Ayache. Conversion successful by Ethan Sanders.
Eels lead 14-6
Mino and Raff De Stradis start this set before Mino has a second carry into extremely heavy contact that he somehow manages to win. Second phase ball to Ayache takes the Eels over midfield and the spiral bomb from Sanders is taken magnificently by Liam Ison of the Panthers.
Not to be outdone Spence defuses a towering bomb of his own before wrong footing the chasers to steal a casual 20m. Has been a real quality game from the Parramatta custodian.
Oh wow what a kick! Sanders has laced a stellar stab chip there to deceive the Penrith winger in flight and trap him in goals! Short drop out coming surely here. Or not! They go long to Ayache to takes it easily and feeds Mino. Raff steams onto it on the second and earns a penalty. Tap and go for the Eels as Pryke gets the ball. A second penalty follows for a messy ruck and the Eels see a chance to their right with some rapid passes. It is definitely on for Aho but he drops the final pass from Guymer! What a let off for Penrith.
Now a penalty for the Panthers that gives them a full set in Parrmatta’s half but they cough it up! Or they don’t? There is an extremely late overrule that sees Penrith pick up a penalty.
Pure desperation from the blue and gold in defence here as they turn the Panthers away time and time again before the Panthers drop the ball trying to force it over the line! What chutzpah! What ticker!
After getting off to such a great start this set with huge carries from Lealaiauloto and Guymer, Martin has his second drop of the game on halfway to give the Panthers the ball with 2min left and needing to score twice.
Suffocating defence from Parra now as they put the clamps on the offloads. Penrith throw all caution to the wind as their fullback runs it to the posts and flings a Hail Mary ball that earns a 6-again call. They refuse to crack with seconds on the clock and the crossfield kick from the Panthers sails into touch to bring an end to a brilliant game in the Harold Matthews. The Eels are still in it! They advance to the big dance next week!
Parramatta Eels 14 def. the Penrith Panthers 6
The scenes after full time!