The Parramatta Eels Holden Cup side have come away with a 22-16 victory over their rivals, the Penrith Panthers, in a rain affected affair at Pepper Stadium this afternoon (Saturday 18 February).
The Eels looked to open the scoring early and cross over for the first try of the game in the fourth minute, when Blue and Gold hooker Denzal Tonise dove over from dummy half. However some heavy defence from the Panthers on their line caused an error as the ball went spilling, and the first try went begging.
Handling proved to be difficult early, with both sides loosing the ball in attacking opportunities, and it became no easier when heavy rain began to fall.
The Eels however struck first, when half Dean Matterson and fullback Anthony Layoun combined in a nice set play, before a cut out ball saw winger John Fonua beat his defender to cross over out wide for the first try.
Half Kamren Cryer knocking over the conversion for the Eels to take a 6-0 lead after 15 minutes.
The weather only got harder as the game progressed, and after Cryer forced a repeat set off a perfectly weighted grubber, the Eels struck again through interchange forward Steve Dresler.
The forward stepped close to the line to find space behind the ruck to cross over for a try.
As Cryer knocked over the conversion, lighting struck close to the ground, causing the players and referees to leave the field due to safety.
The players returned to the field, meaning a reduced first half, and it didn’t take long for the Eels to strike again.
Tonise, who had been shifted from hooker into the back row, made up for his earlier error, weaving through the Panthers defence and crossing for a converted try in the 50th minute of the clash as the Eels took a 18-0 lead.
The Panthers struck back in the 58th minute, off the back of a 40/20, with half Wayde Egan popping a ball over the top to winger Brian Too to cross over out wide.
However the Eels forced their way down the Panthers end with some strong charges through the middle, and Matterson made the most of the field position by throwing a cut out ball to his winger Haze Dunster to cross over out wide.
Despite the conditions, the tries continued to flow, this time with the Panthers scoring a long range effort from their own half. Winger Richie Munchow busting down the sideline, drawing the fullback, and offloading to half Dean Blore in support to score to the left of the posts.
Munchow and Blore were in the thick of the action again, with the half chipping a kick across field, before the winger planted the bouncing ball for a converted try, as the Eels took a 22-16 lead into the final 10 minutes of the match.
The final few minutes had plenty of action, and the faithful crowd in attendance on the edge of their seasons.
Matterson looked to push the lead out to seven with a few minutes to go, but the field goal attempt was pushed wide. The Panthers then went the length of the field, and threw plenty of attack at the Eels defence as the full time siren loomed.
However the Blue and Gold defence held firm, repeling the Panthers in the final two minutes of the match until the fulltime siren rang, as the Eels NYC side came away with a 22-16 victory over the Panthers.
Eels 22 (Tries: John Fonua, Steve Dresler, Denzal Tonise, Haze Dunster; Goals Kamren Cryer 3/4)
Panthers 16 (Tries: Brian Too, Dean Blore, Richie Munchow; Goals: Wayde Egan 2/3)