Penrith have mounted a gutsy second half comeback to kill off Parramatta’s disastrous NRL season with a 22-18 win at Pepper Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Down 18-6 at the break, the Panthers piled on three unanswered tries in the second stanza to keep themselves in the hunt for the top eight after back-to-back losses.
After fighting through adversity and a whirlwind of controversy all year, the Eels’ finals hopes received their coup de grace at the hands of the Panthers.
Already without Kieran Foran, Semi Radradra and Corey Norman, it all proved too much when star centre Michael Jennings succumbed to a hamstring injury.
The Eels looked to be coasting to victory when makeshift playmaker Clint Gutherson guided them to a big halftime lead.
Filling in for the suspended Norman, Gutherson set up Bureta Faraimo and French’s first before scoring one himself.
However the game turned on a dime when Jennings, fresh off his game-winning performance for NSW in State of Origin III, went off just before halftime.
His loss required back-rower Beau Scott to be shifted to the centres and the Panthers immediately exposed him, running in three tries in 11 minutes down their right side.
Tyrone Peachey celebrated his recall to first grade with a four-pointer before five-eighth Bryce Cartwright recovered from his patchy first half to score before Josh Mansour put his side in front.
Both sides went close to scoring in a furious last 20 minutes, with Penrith’s James Fisher-Harris dropping it with the line open and French bobbling a Jeff Robson kick as the Panthers held on.