The Parramatta Eels took on the Penrith Panthers across four grades over two days at Windsor last weekend.
Proceedings kicked off on Friday night with the 16s Development Squad and Tarsha Gale teams taking the field. This was followed on Saturday morning by the Harold Matthews and SG Ball clashes.
The Cumberland Throw was in attendance on Saturday for the Matts and Ball but circumstances prevented us from getting to Windsor on Friday. We appreciate the feedback provided by Eels staff for bringing you the results and some notes on the 16s and Gale games.
Please note that no players are singled out for praise in the notes we’ve relayed from staff. That is left to team or individual feedback sessions. However, our notes on the Matts and Ball will reference players involved in scoring plays or key moments as we saw them.
Under 16 Development Squad
This was a convincing seven tries to two victory for the Eels over the Panthers.
Overall it was a solid team performance with the Eels being simply too powerful for their western Sydney opponents.
There was some credit due to the Panthers who fielded a young team. They had a genuine dig in trying to match their mostly older rivals.
Tarsha Gale Cup
This clash was played in thirds, 30 minutes in the first third and 20 minutes in each of the following stanzas.
After some early dropped ball the Eels dominated those first 30 minutes. The attack was clicking as they posted three straight tries. A bit of that work was undone in allowing the Panthers to cross right on the break and narrow the try tally.
Parra’s dominance continued for the next ten minutes of the second period of play, and after adding another try they were up by four tries to one at the forty minute mark.
Players were rested at this point and over the next ten minutes the Eels and the Panthers each crossed for a try, making it 5 tries to 2 after 50 minutes.
Penrith finished strongly, scoring four tries to the Eels sole four pointer, bringing the final tally to 6 tries apiece.
Overall it was a solid performance as the team prepares for the first round. The collision in the tackles was a step up on the previous week’s effort against the Bulldogs, but coach Ryan Walker will be looking to his team to improve their goal line defence.
Parra started this game on fire, dominating territory and enjoying three line breaks down the left wing via Dom Farrugia. Unfortunately, the Eels couldn’t covert territory into points, with a held up call on fullback Corey Leigh being as close as they could go.
In contrast the Panthers scored from their first foray into the Eels quarter and the momentum went their way from there.
The Panthers initial try in the left corner at just on 8 minutes went unconverted, but a crash play next to the posts soon after added six points to Penrith’s tally. The Eels were then lucky not to concede another try when the Panthers next crossing was ruled to have come from an offside play.
Parra’s earlier line speed and aggression was now missing and the Panthers pack was on a roll. Their dominance was rewarded when a line break next to the ruck was well supported for another try next to the posts. At 16 nil after 20 minutes the home team were now in complete control.
Penrith took full toll on a retreating Eels defence by adding a further two converted tries before the break. At 28 to nil down, the Eels were looking for any way to stem the tide.
The second half could not have commenced any worse for Parra. In the first set after the break, an Eels player got his hand to Penrith’s 5th tackle kick, and the deflection bounced perfectly for the chasers. The unconverted try stretched the score to 32 nil and Penrith were doing their best to keep pace with the clock.
From this point, the Eels fought back to post their own tries.
A sequence of set restarts finally provided Parra with a decent launch point for their attack. Quick hands in a right to left shift gave centre Lachlan Vella space to cross out wide but at 32 to 4 the scoreboard remained lop-sided.
Further joy was again found through the Eels left side as the Panthers compressed defence left winger Dom Farrugia with a corridor to exploit. Every shred of his pace was needed as he raced the cover to the corner post.
Farrugia then sweetened the moment even more with a pearler of a conversion from the sideline. At 32 to 10 with just over ten minutes remaining the result was still safely in Penrith’s keeping.
But the Eels weren’t finished yet. Replacement forwards Ocean Vaivela and Anthony Abdow were leaving some bruises on their Penrith counterparts. The next Parra try would result from a turn over forced by an inspiring Vaivela tackle.
After working play downfield following the turn over, sharp footwork and pace from five-eighth Brandon Navarro created indecision in the Penrith defence. Halfback Lincoln Fletcher added the finishing touches to the movement as he scored the Eels third consecutive try.
That would be all both teams wrote as the 32-16 score line remained unchanged for the final 8 minutes.
This loss was a valuable reality check for the Eels. The week before, Parra brought a heady mix of pace, skill and aggression against the Bulldogs and in the first few minutes of this clash a repeat seemed to be on the cards.
But, after allowing the Panthers to get on the front foot, Parra found it difficult to arrest the momentum and their errors compounded what was a disappointing 20 minute period in the first half. A positive from that period was the go forward from the wingers Lorima Rokusuka and Dom Farrugia and they continued to supply that impetus during the second half.
I expect that coach Chris Howard would have taken plenty from this loss as he looks to fine tune the line up prior to Round 1.
The competition kicks off against the Roosters at Wyong on February 4.
S G Ball
This would be an important trial for the Eels SG Ball team. The Panthers are the reigning Ball champions, whereas Parra’s 2022 team failed to qualify for finals football.
A mixture of new faces, returning players and elevated Harold Matthews fellas took the field at Windsor. Many eyes were likely on those who had been part of the Eels JETS squad, but it should be noted that five Ball players were unavailable for selection.
Parra began superbly when fullback Apa Twidle linked with Dom DeStradis on the left edge for the first try, with halfback Josh Lynn adding the extras.
Penrith replied with a try that wouldn’t have pleased coach Steve O’Dea. The Panthers five-eighth broke away from several defenders close to the line and the conversion levelled the scores after 13 minutes.
An impressive try double to left winger Mohamed Alameddine extended Parra’s lead to 18-6 and the Eels should have taken that score to the break. However, a Panthers try off a kick just as the bell sounded narrowed the margin to six points at half time.
Neither side troubled the scorer for the first 15 minutes of the second half, then a clever pass from dummy half Patrick Spence put prop Sebastian Piukala over next to the posts.
Another sequence of missed tackles on the Panthers pivot lead to his second try, this time out wide and unconverted. At 24-16 the Eels still had a valuable eight point buffer.
The final two tries belonged to the Eels.
Firstly, Reilly Canning took advantage of a disorganised Panthers defence to sneak across from dummy half. Cody Parry then put the icing on the cake with a spectacular try as he leapt for and came down with Josh Lynn’s cross field kick just as the final whistle was blown.
The 34-16 victory was a marked improvement on the error riddled trial loss to the Dogs. Parra’s pack worked as a unit and they’ll be even bigger when Lebron Tuala gets his first match in the Blue and Gold. The backs should have a good platform from which to launch their attack.
Josh Lynn was an absolute standout at halfback and my pick for best on field. Richard Penisini had some classy moments whilst Apa Twidle provided important contributions in both attack and defence.
Stand by for our live blogs of Parra’s Junior Rep season, commencing on February 4 and brought to you by the Home of the Eels, Parra Leagues.