Parramatta gave everything but the Panthers proved they are simply the best and favourites for the titleSeptember 11, 2020
BY CURTIS WOODWARD
If the Parramatta Eels think they can go on to win the 2020 premiership, they will look back at the 11th of September at Penrith Park against their arch rivals as the night they truly instilled their back bone.
Against the best team in the competition, a side on a ridiculous winning streak, the Eels spent most of the first 40 in Friday night football in their own half.
It happened again later.
The Panthers surged. They were absolutely perfect. Clinical. Razor-sharp. Penrith got over the line several times in the first stanza but the Eels found a way to survive each time.
Nathan Cleary was magical.
His forwards dominant.
Up-tempo, slower, perfect lines.
Penrith kept rolling.
And all the while, Parramatta’s only counter attack was a long Mitch Moses kick.
This was a mighty defensive effort – backs against the walls.
Brad Arthur sat proudly above the ground.
The Eels kept showing up.
Somehow Parramatta scrapped down field and kicked a penalty goal.
Incredibly, the Eels took the lead.
After all the pressure, squeezing, bruising, the Panthers finally broke through on the stroke of half-time… literally. With the siren sounding, Josh Mansour planted the ball in the south-eastern corner.
So the Eels had passed the toughest test.
They deserved to lead at the break and then they were flattened by the Mansour meat pie out-wide.
This was a true preview of the playoffs.
Two great teams.
One better than the other.
As hard as the Eels toiled, the longer it went, the more Parramatta realised they were up against a superior unit.
The story, as the minutes ticked down, became more about the Panthers again and how good they really are.
Penrith are a mix of some of the great modern sides.
They smother you like Melbourne, dominate you offensively like the Roosters, with all the charm of the Wests Tigers in 2005.
It’s hard not to like them for the simple reason that they are the best team in the competition.
Parramatta were on the ropes all night yet they kept their feet.
How do you explain what they did?
How do you say that it was one of the most impressive performances of the year and yet they never looked like winning?
It was a ridiculous showing.
Even with five minutes to go and down by 10 and Viliame Kikau rampaging through the middle of the ruck, destined to score, the Eels found a way.
Against what will be the minor premiers, Parramatta refused to go away.
To the point where, up 12-2 with a few minutes to play, Nathan Cleary took a penalty goal instead of trying to crack the Blue and Gold again.
If Peter V’landys walked out onto the field at full-time and ordered another hour of play, Parramatta wouldn’t blink.
This is their jersey and that’s their try line. Keep coming at us!
Eels skipper Clint Gutherson returned a kick with two minutes to play and Kikau hammered him with a spear as good as Goldberg would have ever produced in WCW.
The crowd and the Panthers bench went up.
The moral to this story is… Parramatta were gutsy but the Panthers are simply the best.