The Penrith Panthers have defeated the Dyldam Parramatta Eels 20-18 with an on-the-buzzer try on Sunday afternoon.
The Blue and Gold kicked off the action in front of a 15,600-strong crowd at Pirtek Stadium, and the home side was quick to test the Panthers defence.
Some skilful work with the boot from Corey Norman earned repeat opportunities for the Eels, and storming runs from Manu Ma’u saw the Blue and Gold barrelling up field.
Norman sent a beautiful pass to Brad Takairangi on his right in just the 5th minute, and his centre ran an inside line to crash over the tryline, only to be denied by the bunker for obstruction.
Both sides took a few sets to resettle, with possession turned over three times in quick succession inside the Eels’ 20-metre mark, before the Panthers built waves of possession to pressure the home side.
Isaah Yeo barged to the tryline, while Trent Merrin was held up shortly after, but the Parramatta defence stuck strong. The Eels answered back, sending Jennings to challenge the Panthers defence on the left edge, and Danny Wicks close to the line next to the goal posts, but points stayed out of reach.
At the 20-minute mark, the Eels courted disaster as Michael Gordon and Clint Gutherson struggled to collect a Penrith bomb close to their own tryline, leaving the football free for the Panthers chasers to scoop up the ball and send Bryce Cartwright across the tryline.
The Bunker denied Cartwright’s try for offside, and it took another 5 minutes for the Blue and Gold to post the first points of the game. Norman forced the repeat set, and the Eels declined an opportunity for a penalty shot at goal, before the Eels attack sent the football into the hands of an unstoppable Junior Paulo who crashed over the tryline.
With Michael Gordon providing the extras, the Eels drew away to a 6-0 lead. And while the Parramatta defence held out a Panthers attack that wasn’t afraid to move the ball around, as the clock ran down to halftime the Panthers sent Bryce Cartwright charging at the Eels line one more time.
The second-rower found the line and put the first four points on the board for the Panthers while Soward added another two to level up the scores 6-6 as the two sides headed to the sheds.
The home side was caught napping early in the second half as Panthers hooker Peter Wallace darted from dummy-half to score in the 43rd minute, but responded with desperate goal line defence to keep the Panthers attack at bay for the ensuing sets, and sent a massive kick downfield to find grass in the Panthers 20.
Pushing downfield the Eels chasers applied pressure that saw Josh Mansour spill the ball, while De Gois collected it and sent fullback Michael Gordon over for a try.
Chances went begging as the final pass went begging from Takairangi to winger Clint Gutherson on an almost certain try, and in the 63rd minute Gordon took the opportunity to kick the penalty goal and even the score at 12-12.
Ready to step in and erase the memory of his missed chances, Gutherson sprinted through on a perfectly-timed Kenny Edwards offload, running 30 metres before chipping in field for hooker Isaac De Gois to snatch up and score.
The Blue and Gold looked lethal again in the closing stages as Tepai Moeroa hit the tryline but couldn’t quite retain possession for grounding, while the Panthers forwards kept the Parramatta defenders on their toes, offloading at will.
A penalty in the 75th minute saw the on-field referee overruled to grant the Panthers a scrum feed on the Eels’ 10-metre line for a knock on, giving the Panthers prime position to send the ball out to winger Josh Mansour to score in the corner.
And with just seconds left on the clock, the Panthers struck again, sending the ball wide to the right for Cartwright to catch the Eels defenders off balance and run in a final try to win the Battle of the West.
Penrith Panthers - 20 (Cartwright 2, Wallace, Mansour. Soward: 2/4)
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 18 (Paulo, Gordon, De Gois. Gordon: 2/3. Penalty goals - Gordon: 1/1)