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18 Mar 2018 13:30
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby League

    Panthers stun Eels with NRL comeback

    Penrith have fought back from 14 points down to claim a 24-14 win over Parramatta in their NRL season-opener.

    - article from

    Penrith have made a mockery of their early-season critics - and ruined Jarryd Hayne's return to Parramatta - with a comeback win 24-14 win in their NRL season-opener.

    The Panthers entered their opening match under pressure following speculation of tension between coach Anthony Griffin and boss Phil Gould and player disharmony in recent weeks.

    And it certainly appeared that way when the Eels raced out to a three-try lead - two of them to winger Josh Hoffman - inside the opening half hour on Sunday.

    But in front of their first sellout crowd in four years at Panthers Stadium, the home side scored 24 unanswered points to stun the premiership contenders and claim a resounding victory.

    In a game that marked Hayne's first game for the Eels since 2014 and James Maloney's Panthers' debut, it was unlikely duo Waqa Blake and Viliame Kikau who led the comeback.

    Blake produced an impressive 35-metre individual effort to reduce the deficit just before halftime, before Kikau steamrolled over from close to the line soon after the break.

    Griffin pinpointed Blake's effort as a turning point in the match.

    "That just come out of nothing. We weren't doing much with it either. We weren't attacking well. Just to get that six points, it steadied them down, changed our mindset a bit," he said.

    "We couldn't have done any more wrong in that first 20-25 minutes.

    "We got ourselves into a hole but the back end of that first half, we got into a bit of rhythm, got some points, and we were pretty calm and comfortable at halftime."

    Back-to-back penalty goals to Nathan Cleary - the second of which resulted in Mitchell Moses in the sin bin for a professional foul - gave the Panthers the lead for good.

    Blake completed his double when he finished off a 70-metre run in the 59th minute, before Cleary sealed the win with a third penalty goal.

    The Panthers star finished with a perfect six goals from six attempts, while fullback Dylan Edwards also impressed with a game-high 160 metres, eight tackle busts and three line breaks.

    It was a stunning turnaround from Penrith, who conceded a penalty in the opening minute and turned the ball over in their first five sets.

    Eels coach Brad Arthur bemoaned a poor second half effort.

    "Momentum was stopped because we went in at halftime, we come out of the sheds... well we probably didn't come out of the sheds because our start to the second half wasn't good enough," he said.

    "We allowed them back into the game and to their credit they come out with plenty of intent and we didn't match it."


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