Parramatta have held off a brave second half comeback from Penrith to score a thrilling 26-20 derby win at Pepper Stadium on Friday night.
The Panthers were staring at a 14-0 hole when playmaker Jamie Soward joined Matt Moylan on the sideline after a late hit from Pauli Pauli midway through the second half that saw the Eels forward placed on report.
Moylan limped off in just the 10th minute with a suspected ruptured ankle.
But, led by makeshift five-eighth Bryce Cartwright, the hosts crossed three times in eight minutes to level the game with a quarter of it to go.
However the Eels regained their lead as quickly as they lost it through Semi Radradra, who touched down on a miracle grubber from Brad Takairangi in the 61st and then finished a left-side sweep in the 64th.
Yet the Panthers refused to yield and set up a grandstand finish when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak took advantage of an Isaah Yeo offload in the 70th minute.
But, in front of a strong crowd of 17,821, the Eels held on to finally end their losing streak at five games.
It was a horror start for the Panthers, who were left stunned at 12-0 when they watched their star fullback go down.
First Will Hopoate’s quick hands allowed Ryan Morgan to open the scoring in the fourth minute, before Semi Radradra helped the Eels go 100 metres to put Reece Robinson over in the next set.
The sight of Moylan limping off just three minutes later completed the nightmare opening.
From there the hosts spent the rest of the half fending off raid upon raid on their tryline, and on the rare occasion they got into an attacking set, Hopoate saved a certain Waqa Blake try with a one-on-one steal.
By the end of the half the Eels, who had missed their past six shots at goal, took a 14-0 lead into the break on Sandow’s 29th minute penalty.
Penrith got the early try they needed in the second half when Yeo finished off a James Segeyaro break in the 50th minute.
Soward was felled by Pauli in the build-up.
Stepping into the pivot role, Cartwright continued the momentum after dummying twice and producing a neat corner pass for David Simmons three minutes later.
The Panthers youngster completed the comeback in the 58th when the Eels were caught short-handed before fighting back to score a sorely-needed victory.
MORE TO COME