The Parramatta Eels proved their premiership mettle with a second win over the Penrith Panthers this season, running out 34-10 winners.
Coming out of the blocks and going toe-to-toe with the Panthers after previous disappointing performances, the game was turned on its head by one fateful tackle.
That tackle came from Nathan Cleary who picked up Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown and planted him on his head.
The fan reaction was swift and immediate, asking for a sending off and after the footage, Cleary was indeed done for the game.
Cleary was clearly annoyed himself as he made his way off the field and Panthers coach Ivan Cleary expects his halfback to spend some time on the sidelines.
“I think he is going to be missing for a bit, I don’t know how long but I suppose based on other examples this year it is probably likely,” Cleary said.
“He feels like he has let everyone down. I think anyone who has been in that position would probably feel the same.”
Before, Cleary’s send-off, it was actually he who provided the assist for the opening try of the game.
A play down the left caught the Eels defenders slide across, creating a gap, and Cleary’s pass found Sean O’Sullivan who bolted through to score.
Isaiah Papali’i then continued his try-scoring form when he leapt highest to claim Brown’s kick and put the Eels ahead.
Mitch Moses then stepped up and executed a 40/20 and the ensuing set saw Maika Sivo finish off a swift backline play.
Cleary would then be sent off and the Eels had another, the first of the game for Reed Mahoney.
A simple run-around play with Junior Paulo saw Mahoney burrow his way over.
The little hooker was it again soon after when he scored as easy as you like under the sticks with another scoot from dummy half.
The Eels had 30 points by the half, with their final try coming after an O’Sullivan bobble and Clint Gutherson was there to pounce.
The two sides would score one more try each, Martin for the Panthers and a second for Sivo, and that would be all she wrote.
Penrith now face a nervous wait on the future of Cleary.
Eels coach Brad Arthur was pleased that his side was able to follow the plan in the first half to get out to the commanding lead.
“The first half was good, we played nice and professional,” Arthur said.
“Sometimes it gets hard in that situation where they are a man down and you have got plenty of footy. Our completions were above 90 per cent, we stuck to the plan.”
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary was pleased with the resiliency his side were able to show in the second half.
“We won the second half so I was really proud of the boys, actually,” Cleary said.
“I thought they were very courageous. There were some lessons in that game.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Dylan Brown (PAR)
2. Isaiah Papali’i (PAR)
1. Izack Tago (PEN)