Friday’s game in the cold, dew-sodden, crowd-less arena in BlueBet Stadium in Penrith between the Panthers and the Eels was one that rugby league purists had been yearning for.
It was an old-fashioned arm wrestle.
There were errors made but it was refreshing to see a stalemate, a far cry from the blowouts that have become synonymous with season 2021.
The highlight of the game was watching two opposing enforcers lock horns: James Fisher-Harris and his former teammate Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
Neither man took a backward step. They seemed to gravitate towards each other. Their charges were filled with venom and there were plenty of brutal collisions between the pair.
It was Fisher-Harris that came out on top.
Penrith were able to grind out a somewhat ugly win thanks to a late field goal by Matt Burton.
The final score seemed destined to finish at 13-12 to the Panthers however there was a last-minute twist, which befitted the night.
With less than a minute left on the clock, the Eels opted for a short kick-off, with Liam Martin running Waqa Blake off the ball.
Parramatta were gifted a shot at goal in the dying embers of the game with the opportunity to snatch the game.
Mitch Moses stepped up to the plate and missed. Penrith survived by the skin of their teeth. It was a tough kick, 35 metres out close to the sideline, however it summed up his night.
While Moses did set up two tries with kicks, and at times tormented Penrith’s fullback Charlie Staines under the high ball, he failed to stamp his authority in a crucial game with the vacant Blues halfback jersey being the prize for a strong performance.
Penrith meanwhile showed encouraging signs, edging out a top-four team with their marquee playmaker on the sidelines injured.
Burton showed poise, slotting the winning field goal after missing an attempt in the previous set, while Isaah Yeo got through a tonne of work and Brian To’o was immense with his barnstorming runs.
We also cannot forget Fisher-Harris’ efforts to cement his dominance as the leader of the Penrith pack.
While it wasn’t end-to-end attacking footy, I loved watching the gripping war of attrition that took place on Friday night and I hope it isn’t the last of the like we see this year.