Sunday Night: Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels
The Panthers were deserved favourites with the betting sites heading into the 2022 NRL Grand Final – they’ve been the best team all year and won their first two finals with ease – but the Eels have shown all year that at their best, they are very tough to beat. They were always going to need to demonstrate every bit of that form against Penrith, but though the game started off hot and contested, it took just ten minutes for the favourites to get on the board. That first try came through Stephen Crichton, and when Nathan Cleary converted they took a 6-0 lead.
Just five minutes later, things began to look ominous for the Eels when Brian To’o extended the lead to ten points, before a Nathan Cleary penalty a couple of minutes after took the lead to 12-0. The procession continued in the 27th minute, when Scott Sorenson scored and Nathan Cleary converted to take the lead to 18-0. Things were going to script for the Panthers, while the Eels, much to the dismay of both their fans and neutrals alike, appeared to be putting in one of the stinkers which they’ve periodically mixed in with their good form throughout the course of the season. They dug the heels in for the rest of the first half, but 16 points in arrears, at the main break they still had their work cut out to make a game out of it.
Invariably, half time discussion centred around how the Eels could possibly find a way to get back into the match, and there was plenty that needed to change in order for them to do so. Unfortunately, the early signs suggested that not much had changed at half time. Within five minutes Brian To’o had scored his second try of the game to take the lead to 22-0, and by the time Charlie Staines scored a try of his own in the 58th minute, party time was well and truly in session for the Panthers. The last 20 minutes were little more than a celebration for Penrith, and though the Eels got on the board with consecutive tries in the space of two minutes on the stroke of the final whistle, it was little solace for them in what was a thoroughly disappointing Grand Final effort.
The win was a just reward for the Panthers, who have been a cut above the chasing pack all season. Individually, Dylan Edwards collected the Clive Churchill Medal to round out a terrific season for the 26-year-old – his 291 run metres, 69 post contact metres, three line break assists and nine tackle breaks made him a pillar of the Panthers dominance, though he had plenty of teammates who excelled on the biggest stage as well. Conversely, the Eels’ 36-year Premiership drought continues after their disappointing performance, but while they failed to give a whimper on Grand Final Day, few sides in recent history would have been able to hold a candle to the Panthers on Sunday night.
NRL 2023 Futures