The Panthers realised success in utilizing Sammut at half and the Eels too looked solid with new pivot Mateo looking confident in his new position.
Running out eventual winners 30-28, the Panthers ran in two late tries to Luke Rooney to sneak away with the win after the Eels had led 28-12 in the second half and looked to have the win in the bag.
The two tries came after the Eels looked to have the Panthers under control for around 60 minutes of play, during which they crossed for five tries to two.
After playing a strong part and scoring two late tries for the Panthers it was some sort of return to the game for former Australia winger Rooney, who hadn’t played since last May after undergoing surgery for a neck injury.
Trent Waterhouse, Rhys Wesser and Sammut also got on the scoresheet, Sammut finishing with a match haul of 14 points in a performance which is likely to go a long way to securing him the No.7 jumper for the NRL season opener against Brisbane.
Panthers coach Matthew Elliott paid tribute to new skipper Petero Civoniceva after the game, saying the former Bronco was desperate to get back on the field late in the game to help secure his side a first-up win.
Despite the end result Eels head coach Hagan said he too was pleased with combinations formed by Eels players.
“I was pretty happy overall, it was the first hit out of the year and we came with quite a few young players who I thought handled it extremely well,” Hagan said.
“We think we’ve got some good talent in the football team and we probably left eight or ten of our better players behind.
“There were signs there that were fairly encouraging, Feleti Mateo and Brett Finch ran the team well, so did young Kris Keating and also Matt Keating was very tidy.
“We’re very much looking forward to next week.”
For Penrith, coach Matt Elliott will be happy with the performance form his forwards who were solid in the early showing. With lock Trent Waterhouse scoring the first try of the match off a neatly held pass from Jarrod Sammut. Sammut then converted to make it six-nil to the Panthers after 11 minutes. Sammut looked confident in his new half role and will push for selection this year, against the likes of Joe Williams.
Overcoming a momentary lack of possession the Eels found the tryline ten minutes later through Joel Reddy, who touched down after a break down the short side by Krisnan Inu.
Inu then added the extras to put the match back on level terms.
The Panthers edged ahead again through a try to Rhys Wesser however the Eels wasted no time in hitting back, fullback Etu Uaisele reaping the spoils of a well placed Brett Finch cross kick to score in the corner.
The Eels then took the lead, Matt Keating burrowing his way over next to the posts for Jarryd Hayne to convert and make it 16-12 Parramatta’s way after
half an hour.
The first ten minutes after half time looked to have proved decisive for the Eels with two converted tries stretching the buffer to 16 points at 28-12.
The first came just 60 seconds after the break, lock Weller Hauraki scoring off some excellent lead up work from Junior Paulo and Kris Keating.
Eight minutes later the Eels were in again, Mark Riddell scoring off a neat kick and re-gather.Tony Williams converted both tries to give the Eels breathing space.
Sammut narrowed the gap for the Panthers with 20 minutes remaining, scoring and converting to make it 28-18 the Eels way. Sammut proving difficult to stop, as he ran rings around tiring defence. He then converted both Rooney tries to put the Panthers back in front at 30 to 28.
The Eels had one last surge and threatened the line wide out, only for the ball to sail over the sideline just before full time.
The only injury concern to come out of the match was a medial ligament strain to young Eels second rower Justin Horo, who will undergo scans in coming days.
Penrith Panthers 30 (Luke Rooney 2, Trent Waterhouse, Rhys Wesser, Jarrod
Sammut tries; Jarrod Sammut 5/5)
Parramatta Eels 28 (Joel Reddy, Etu Uaisele, Matt Keating, Weller Hauraki, Mark Riddell tries; Tony Williams 2/2, Jarryd Hayne 1/2, Krisnan Inu 1/1)
at Lavington Sports Ground, Albury