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Injuries cruel Eels in derby defeat

An injury-depleted Eels team went down 26-18 to the Panthers despite a gutsy effort in the Battle of the West.

The Eels' left edge was decimated by injury, as they lost both Bailey Simonsson and Kelma Tuilagi in the early stages of either half. Simonsson failed a HIA after being hit high by Jarome Luai in the 2nd minute, while Tuilagi injured his arm while making a big tackle on Liam Martin in the 52nd minute.

The Panthers took full advantage of the Eels' misfortune, as all five of their tries were scored through Parramatta's left-side defence.

Despite their array of setbacks, the Eels led at half-time and remained in the contest until the closing stages.

The Eels' tries came via Joey Lussick, Shaun Lane and J'maine Hopgood, with Dylan Brown assisting the latter two.

The Eels encountered their first obstacle inside two minutes, as Bailey Simonsson's night came to an end. The winger suffered a head injury in a bad tackle by Jarome Luai, forcing Morgan Harper to the wing and Kelma Tuilagi to the centres.

However the loss did little to slow a fast start by Parramatta, as the Eels hit an early lead.

Attacking the goal-line, Joey Lussick jumped out of dummy half and pounced on the Panthers’ defence after just three minutes. Mitchell Moses stepped up to the kicking tee and put the Eels ahead 6-0.

Lussick with the fast start

The Panthers responded well to the early deficit, and took the lead in the 15th minute.

Dylan Edwards tracked down a Nathan Cleary kick for Penrith’s first try, before a bulldozing run by Moses Leota handed the hosts a 12-6 advantage.

Penrith looked in control, before a try from nowhere brought Parramatta back to life.

Approaching the red zone, Dylan Brown played a clever short ball to Shaun Lane, who steamed through a gap in the Penrith defence. The second-rower then rounded the fullback and slid over under the sticks.

The Lane train arrives!

Clint Gutherson took over goal-kicking duties and levelled the scores after 23 minutes.

The Panthers promptly hit back, with Sunia Turuva applying the finishing touch to a right-edge shift. Cleary’s missed conversion restricted Penrith’s lead to four points.

The home side looked set to take their advantage into the sheds, before a Parramatta sucker punch handed the Eels a half-time lead.

Dylan Brown delivered another try assist for the Eels as he continued causing problems for Penrith’s defence. This time he found J’maine Hopgood after drifting to the right, and the lock forward powered over for his first try of the year.

Hopgood steams through

Gutherson’s conversion pushed Parramatta ahead 18-16 at the interval.

The Eels looked to carry their momentum into the second half, but another cruel injury proved costly.

In the act of hitting Liam Martin with a bone-rattling shot, Kelma Tuilagi injured his arm and was forced off for the remainder of the night.

With Tuilagi down injured in back-play, the Panthers capitalised on their numerical advantage. Sunia Turuva scored his second and Cleary converted, putting the Panthers ahead 22-18.

Tuilagi’s withdrawal forced a second change at left centre, as Bryce Cartwright slotted into the backline.

The hosts extended their advantage moments later, after the Eels put down a Penrith bomb. With the defence backpedalling, the Panthers shifted right and Izack Tago crossed.

Parramatta searched valiantly for a try to resurrect their hopes, but the match petered out in the final 20 minutes and the Eels fell to defeat.

The Eels will look to return to winning ways when they host the Manly Sea Eagles at CommBank Stadium next Sunday afternoon.

Secure your seat for the Eels' Round 3, Sunday afternoon showdown with the Sea Eagles. Only in PARRAdise.

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