Nathan Hindmarsh

It is a rivalry that probably does not get much bigger, as the Parramatta Eels took on the Penrith Panthers at Centrebet Stadium, on a cold Saturday night – a game in which the Eels won in a golden-point thriller.

The stage was set for a frantic finish, as the game went to golden point – with both teams having several chances at slotting home the winning field goal, before Eels halfback Chris Sandow kicked his third field goal of the season with 30 seconds to go, giving the Eels a 19-18 win, just their third of the season.

It was the Panthers who looked like they would be running away with the game, after they took an 18-6 lead courtesy of some sloppy Eels play and a crafty pass from centre Michael Jennings.

It was the Eels never-say-die attitude that we have seen in previous encounters this year however, that saw them level the scores within the space of 7 minutes.

It was then Sandow who slotted home the field goal, who nailed the field goal from 30m out, and was as cool as you like in doing so.

“I’d already had two practices,” Sandow said with a laugh afterwards.

“Couldn’t quite hit ’em like I’m used to doing. But the third one came off really sweet. Soon as I kicked it, I knew it was going over.”

Despite his two early field goal misses, whilst Sandow said that he always had confidence he would slot one home, it was Eels coach Stephen Kearney who was getting more and more concerned.

“Chrissy hits ’em at training from 50 metres out and, trust me, they all go through the posts,” Kearney said with a smile.

“So I was getting a little frustrated.”

Kearney was pleased with the overall effort of his side’s performance, and said that he saw improvement in not only Sandow, but the team in general.

“Yeah, yeah. Certainly.

“And, look, those first eight to 10 rounds, there were things he was dealing with which is why I put him back to reserve grade.

“But to think he’d just get here and (Kearney clicks his fingers) do this straight away, in terms of a 10 out of 10 performance, it was always going to be a transition for him.

“Over the last month, I’ve seen gradual improvement. There was improvement again tonight and we’ll keep working until we get it right.”

If there is one player who deserves the kudos though, it is the Eels stalwart and club legend Nathan Hindmarsh, who had the game of his life, finishing with 181m, 40 tackles, 20 runs, five offloads, a line-break, a line-break assist and a try assist.

“Nathan was enormous for us tonight,” Kearney said.

“The game itself, it wasn’t nice … not until the last minute. But it was enjoyable watching the lads fight like they did. In the first half, the penalty count was 5-1 and they had all the field position, so to fight back was great.”

Hindy himself said that the reason he played so well, was that Kearney had given him almost the entire week off training – with Hindmarsh being the usual smart alec that he is.

“So I’ve already asked to have until next Friday off,” Hindmarsh said at the post-match press conference.

The loss for Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, was another one that slipped out of their grasp at the last minute.

“You can add that to a pretty long list this year – there’s probably four or five games where we’ve led with 10 to go,” Cleary said.

By ricky

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