It was the battle of the two teams from the West in the NRL and it was the Parramatta Eels who came out on top over the Penrith Panthers, winning 32-16 at Pirtek Stadium in a game that saw the return of Chris Sandow.
The focus and emphasis was all on Sandow as the Eels fans looked to someone to spark their season, as he and the likes of Jarryd Hayne and Nathan Peats knuckled down and helped deliver a win.
On the back of a sturdy second-half display that saw them run the Panthers ragged, the nifty work of Peats from dummy half and from Sandow’s unpredictability in attack are what changed the game.
In a match that always has a bit of spice and rivalry given the geographical locations of the two sides, the errors and penalties came in quick and fast at one point and during the second half, the Panthers had no answer for the Eels onslaught.
It was a disappointing match for the Panthers overall who had been expected to win the game – even if it was away from home – as they started favourites but could not make the most of opportunities, something that ultimately cost them.
With Peter Wallace a late withdrawal from the side yet again, the team dynamics changed and that may have affected the Panthers throughout.
As for the game itself, it was one that Panthers coach Ivan Cleary described as the worst of the season so far.
“We’ve had some good signs and tonight was a disappointment. It was by far our worst game. So yeah, it’s about bouncing back,” said Cleary.
For Cleary, the effort was not the issue but rather, it was their lack of execution when it mattered and he felt that the Eels just wanted the win more than his side did.
“It’s not effort. But it was just… we’ve had three big weeks and this week, maybe we just weren’t quite ready to have another one,” he said.
“I actually thought we were probably on top in the first half for a lot of the time, but execution let us down a bit.
“Then I don’t know, we hit the front in the second half and they were too good. They had the edge in just lots of little things tonight. I think they wanted it a little bit more than us.”
It was a different story for the Eels who perhaps did not have the first half they were after, though the second half belonged to them as they dug deep, finished their sets and made the most of their opportunities.
All the talk post-game was on halfback Chris Sandow who was playing in his first game of the season and the general consensus from Eels coach Brad Arthur was that he had a good start but can and will get better.
“He was solid. Still some things that we need to get better, but he was solid,” Arthur offered first up.
“As long as he gets better next week, we’ll have a look at it again after that.”
“Goalkicking helps, and I thought he deserved his opportunity.”
For captain Tim Mannah, it was the team effort that helped his side towards the victory, with all of the players playing for each other.
“It was good [having him there], but everyone made it easy for each other. Everyone worked hard for each other,” Mannah said.
Someone who knows Sandow well and has played alongside him before is Eels hooker Nathan Peats and for the dynamic hooker – who had another stellar game – he says that the man himself is no different to the one he played with at Souths.
“He’s the same. Chip and chasing, going himself. It was good to see him playing with some confidence considering he hasn’t played first grade in a while. It was good to see and hopefully he gets better and better,” Peats said.
3. Nathan Peats
2. Jarryd Hayne
1. Manu Ma’u