Needing a win to get their season back on track, the Parramatta Eels went into their Western derby with the Penrith Panthers confident of recording a win.
It started out well enough, as they burst out of the blocks courtesy of some Semi Radradra magic down the sideline as well as a lovely Will Hopoate offload that saw Ryan Morgan score.
The Eels had much of the ascendancy and possession in the first half and it proved to be a telling factor, as they went into the break with a handy lead. After that, though, they seemed to implode for a period of 15-20 minutes.
Unable to stem the tide of possession the Panthers had in the second half on the back of a string of penalties, the Panthers got themselves back into the contest with three tries of their own.
Throughout, one of the big differences was the pinpoint accuracy to which Sandow converted. Even from the sideline, Sandow made no mistake as he finished with 5 goals from 5 attempts in the Eels 26-20 win at Pepper Stadium.
Despite the decent patches by both sides throughout the game, there are bigger talking points. With several injuries to come out of the clash on both sides, the teams will face nervous waits on the prognosis of those players.
For the Eels, Brad Takairangi (ankle) and Tim Mannah (wrist) are the major concerns, whereas a medial ligament strain for in-form Panthers fullback Matt Moylan has their fans worried.
Takairangi eventually returned and played on one leg, even having a hand in one of Radradra’s tries in the second half.
The Panthers final try to fill-in fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak made things interesting but despite the Panthers best efforts to try and score to even the game up, the Eels defence held resolute.
In the end, it was a much needed win for the Eels and one that gives them confidence moving forward.
With the Eels goal-kicking lacking in recent weeks, coach Brad Arthur said his side did nothing different in their preparation.
“They [the kickers] work hard every week,” Arthur said.
“Going into each game, last week they kicked 15 from 18 the day before at training. Sometimes it’s just the occasion and maybe last week was just the occasion. We needed to win.”
From Sandow’s point of view, he said it was just working and training with noted goal-kicker and Eels legend Luke Burt that helped him this week.
“Me and Burty have been working really hard you know, Burty was a great kicker at the club, he’s got the record there so me and Burty have been working really hard and we worked really hard this week and it paid off tonight,” Sandow said.
Acknowledging that fullback Matt Moylan had a significant injury, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was not sure on the extent of it.
“It’s a significant injury, whether it’s fractured or not I don’t know but it’s a significant injury,” he said,” said Cleary.
Player of the Game:
3. Semi Radradra
2. Bryce Cartwright
1. Corey Norman
Parramatta Eels 26 (Radradra 2, Morgan, Robinson tries; Sandow 5 goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 20 (Yeo, Simmons, Cartwright, Watene-Zelezniak tries; Wallace 2 goals) at Pepper Stadium. Crowd: 17,821.