The Dyldam Parramatta Eels put on a brave performance on Saturday night to defeat the Penrith Panthers 32-16, and claim bragging rights in the Battle of the West.
It was a solid start for the Eels as they resumed where they left off in last week’s narrow loss to the Sea Eagles, and put first points on the scoreboard.
Willie Tonga scored first through a 90m intercept-try that saw him run the length of the pitch, with the conversion good by returning halfback Chris Sandow.
The Panthers responded to the Eel’s early try when Matt Moylan ran at the line and offloaded a short ball to Isaac John who scored under the posts, granting Moylan an easy conversion to tie it up at 6-6.
It didn’t take long though for the Eels to find the line again, this time through hooker Nathan Peats with a dive from dummy-half and an easy conversion for Sandow, leading 12-6.
There were chances for both sides towards the end of the first half and a defensive slip from the Eels allowed Panthers second-rower Lewis Brown to cross, with an unsuccessful attempt from Moylan.
“The first half we kept turning it away, and then coming up with a poor read and a soft try just before half time isn’t acceptable,” said Head Coach Brad Arthur.
“But on a whole our defence was strong and the thing that pleased me the most was our response to the second half where we completed at 95%.”
Penrith came out firing from the half-time break when they capitalised on an early penalty to let Dean Whare over the line, and following a conversion from Moylan the Panthers led for the first time in the match, 16-12.
It was a dominating second half from the Eels as they were able to cross the line four times unanswered and seal the match – the first came from Manu Ma’u who charged his way over the line after already carrying the ball three times in the same set.
Off the back of a Chris Sandow special, the Eels were able to recover a chip n’ chase that allowed Jarryd Hayne to loft a cut-out ball to Semi Radradra, and the fan favourite had no problem planting the ball in the right-hand corner.
The Panthers defence hadn’t learnt their lesson when Peats snuck across from hooker in the first half, allowing Hayne to do it again in the second. Chris Sandow was solid with the boot and the Eels were leading 28-16 with ten minutes to play.
It was a deserving late-match try for Ken Sio who returns to the first-grade side after starting the season with Wenty in NSW Cup. Sandow was unsuccessful from the right sideline but the Eels wrapped up the game 32-16 and took out the Battle of the West.
“It was real important [to win tonight]," said Brad Arthur.
"We’ve got a strong fan-base and they want to come and see us compete, so we did that."
“There’s plenty of want and desire here but it’s only Round Four; we’ve got to keep marching forward and we need to be better.”
Dyldam Parramatta Eels 32 (Radradra, Tonga, Peats, Hayne, Sio, Ma’u tries; Sandow 4/6 goals)
Penrith Panthers 16 (Whare, Brown, John tries; Moylan 2/4 goals)