Full Time
7:55pm Fri July 29, 2022
Round 20 - CommBank Stadium, Parramatta - Crowd: 26912

Round 20: Eels v Panthers preview

One of the fiercest rivalries in the NRL heats back up and the Panthers will be wanting revenge for their only defeat of the season when they head to Parramatta to take on the Eels at Commbank Stadium.

Back in Round 9, the Eels pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the NRL when they went to Penrith and because the first team in over 1,000 days to record a victory against the reigning premiers at Bluebet Stadium. The win highlighted how good the Eels can be on their day with the win - but also highlighted their inconsistencies in the fact that they could take win against the Panthers but struggle against other sides.

The Eels come into the contest sitting in seventh spot on the ladder with, 11 victories from their 18 games, illustrating just how that lack of consistency that has hurt them this season. Last weekend, this came back to bite them when they were comprehensively outplayed by the Broncos in their 36-14 defeat. In wet conditions, it took the Eels along time to turn up at the races and despite staging a strong showing during the second half, they were no match for Brisbane.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has made one change to his line-up with Bryce Cartwright set to return for the clash against his junior club returning from a rib injury. Jakob Arthur drops back to the interchange bench in an otherwise unchanged line up.

Penrith have only lost 1 game this season, and as mentioned that came against the Eels back in round 9 in a defeat that left a sting in the tail of the Premiers who want revenge given the somewhat controversial nature of the result in the eyes of some Panthers fans. 

Last weekend, the Panthers were up against it in their 20-10 win over Cronulla, after having to fight their way back from 10-0 down to get muscle their way into the contest and ultimately take victory in tough conditions. They were outplayed in the first 20 minutes in the contest with pure dominance from the Sharks putting Penrith on the back foot, before finding their groove and ultimately claiming the win.

In the days since, the club has suffered a minor injury crisis with Origin stars Stephen Crichton and Jarome Luai both out of the contest. Crichton will miss at least this week's clash with that nasty ear injury that saw him undergo plastic surgery yesterday while Jarome Luai misses six weeks with a knee injury. Coach Ivan Cleary has named Robert Jennings in the centres while Sean O'Sullivan replaces Luai in the halves. The other notable change that has left many Panthers fans stunned is the addition of Charlie Staines to the bench, though could just be a cover with Moses Leota named in the reserves after being ruled out late last week.

Last meeting: Round 9 2022 - Panthers 20 Eels 22

Who to watch: Leading into Origin 3, there was a lot of commentary around the omission of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and his relationship with the Panthers contingent in the NSW squad, and whether that played a role in him being left out of the rep side. There is no doubt that RCG and the Panthers have a frosty relationship since his departure at the end of 2019, and the relationship has yet to thaw - and that means RCG will be looking to put on a performance.

With the loss of Jarome Luai, the Panthers have recalled Sean O'Sullivan into the side to replace the NSW representative. O'Sullivan has been a handy replacement for Penrith this season - initially for Nathan Cleary when he was out injured - and then over the Origin period leading the Panthers through an undefeated stretch. The man nicknamed 'SOS' has answered the call before for the Panthers and can do it again.

The favourite: Penrith's ladder position and form have them favourites despite the teamsheet drama.

My tip: This is a tough game to tip because the Eels always turn up for a Panthers contest and have pushed Penrith a long way, and were only minutes away from victory in the finals last year. The Panthers have a couple of key players out but I still think there is just enough for them to get victory though it'll go down to the wire. Panthers by 4.