A last-minute Matt Burton field goal has given the Panthers a thrilling 13-12 win over their bitter rivals Parramatta at BlueBet Stadium tonight.
In dramatic scenes following Burton's successful field goal, Eels halfback and Blues contender Mitchell Moses was given a chance to win the game on the siren, after Panthers backrower Liam Martin was penalised for taking Parramatta winger Haze Dunster off the ball from the ensuing kickoff. Unfortunately for Moses and the Eels his shot drifted wide, allowing Penrith to escape with a dramatic victory and give them a four-point buffer in second place from the Eels on the NRL ladder.
It was a shattering moment for Moses, who despite the miss remains a warm favourite to replace the injured Nathan Cleary in the Blues side for Origin III following a solid performance for the Eels despite the tense defeat.
Penrith will breathe a huge sigh of relief, as their attack clearly struggle without the regular number 7, but coach Ivan Cleary will be pleased with the resilience his side showed in a real arm wrestle against fellow premiership contenders in Parramatta.
All eyes were on the home side pre-match who were without their superstar halfback Nathan Cleary missing from the starting line up and the Panthers weren't themselves early in the match, making an uncharacteristic five handling errors in the first 20 minutes.
Eels winger Maika Sivo then took advantage of the mountain of possession, when skipper Clint Gutherson scooped up at Mitchell Moses kick for Sivo to muscle his way over in the corner and give his side a 4-0 lead following Moses' missed conversion from the sideline.
Returning Panthers winger Brent Naden then gave his side a swing in momentum, when he snatched an intercept and made his way inside his own attacking zone. Off the back of the break from Naden, makeshift half Tyrone May then took the ball to the line and beat Eels backrower Isaiah Papali'i with a show and go to score and get his side back in the match. Stephen Crichton then converted to give Penrith an unlikely lead at the break despite their low completion rate and lack of field position.
After the break, the Eels wrestled back momentum when Mitchell Moses put up a bomb on the last which Panthers fullback Charlie Staines opted to let the ball bounce. It was a horrendous decision, which saw the ball bounce into the arms of a rampaging Isaiah Papali'i to score under the posts and get the Eels back in front by 10-6 following Moses' conversion.
The Panthers then fought back again, when Jarome Luai offloaded close to the line and found Apisai Koroisau in support and the crafty hooker then made a dash to the try line to score and give his side the lead back.
Panthers interchange forward Spencer Leniu then caught the attention of the referee, when he was penalised twice in as many sets, for stripping the ball in the tackle. It proved costly and allowed Mitch Moses a penalty goal to level the scores with 20 minutes remaining.
The game continued to see-saw, until Panthers behemoth Villiame Kikau looked certain to score until Eels skipper Gutherson somehow got his body underneath the ball to hold him up over the line saving a certain try.
Gutherson then went from hero to villain when he was penalised for a blatant forward pass from dummy half with the game in the balance. Fortunately for the Eels skipper, Matt Burton's shot at field goal hit the post and the game was still tied with minutes remaining.
Matt Burton off the back of a strong last ditch run from his hooker Koroisau then made no mistake when given his second opportunity to give his side a 13-12 lead with a minute remaining.
Moses was then given one last chance to snatch the victory but unfortunately for Brad Arthur's men it was not to be and the Panthers held on for a morale boosting win over the fierce rivals at home.
Both sides now enjoy the bye in Round 17 in a much needed rest prior to Origin III before firing up for the run home to this year's finals series.