Penrith made it 13 straight wins while exhausted Parramatta players could have been forgiven for falling asleep before the team bus made its way back to the M4 Motorway.
A try to Josh Mansour just seconds before half-time, a Liam Martin try off a Nathan Cleary kick and Jarome Luai four-pointer in the final minute helped move the mountain men to within one win of the minor premiership.
Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai celebrates his try against the Eels on Friday night.Credit:Getty
Penrith fans are entitled to dream big when the finals start.
Coach Ivan Cleary said afterwards: "We had to show plenty of patience. It felt like we dominated field position and had plenty of opportunities and half-chances, but we kept finding a way to shoot ourselves in the foot.
"The try on half-time was critical. To go into the break ahead was a huge confidence boost.''
Penrith played at speed and created more than their share of try-scoring opportunities.
Luai was denied by Blake Ferguson's thigh and Billy Kikau stopped by the upright late in the game.
Who could seriously keep up with the number of times they targeted the Eels' right edge of Ferguson and Waqa Blake and went close.
For all the excitement the young Panthers are generating, Parramatta also lost no admirers.
They meet Brisbane and the Wests Tigers in the final fortnight and should wrap up an all-important top-four berth.
Their defence was nothing short of courageous and outstanding. They made 114 more tackles than 'Little Brother'.
"We could see the effort and scramble was really good; we just couldn't keep defending back-to-back sets. At some stage we were going to pay the price,'' Eels coach Brad Arthur said.
"I thought our effort was outstanding.''
Parramatta had just 20 per cent of possession to start the game and at one stage were forced to make 57 tackles inside their own 20m compared to just six at the other end of Panthers Stadium.
The blue and gold wall will take some serious good football to crack it come October. Penrith threw everything at them for just three tries.
By the same token, the Eels will need to crank up their attack – and quickly.
Hopefully they will welcome back Reed Mahoney from a shoulder injury next week.
The Panthers lost their own dummy-half Api Koroisau late in the game to concussion.
Mansour received a lovely cut-out ball from Luai to score in the corner just 10 seconds before the break.
And when Cleary slotted the conversion from the sideline, the Panthers had something to show for their first-half domination.
You could only wonder what their mood would have been like had they hit the sheds with nothing to show for.
September-like football had arrived in, er, September.
Mansour thought he had a try in the seventh minute, only for the bunker to rule Stephen Crichton had spilled the ball forward.
Penrith were unlucky to lose a captain's challenge with insufficient evidence to overturn a stripping call on Ferguson.
Another potential Panthers' four-pointer went begging when Moses Leota steamed on to a Koroisau pass and spilled it metres away from the line.
The visitors did a marvellous job to be in the contest – and their perseverance had them go ahead 2-0 through a penalty goal. Clint Gutherson was up-ended by Koroisau, with Andrew Johns describing the penalty on the Nine coverage as ''a soft one''.
Just when the Eels looked ready to hit the sheds with a slender lead, Kane Evans failed to get off Stephen Crichton and gifted Penrith a set re-start. And with enough time to get to the end of their final set, Mansour made Evans and the Eels pay.
Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in Sport
Source: Read Full Article