Parramatta coach Brad Arthur reacted to the team’s latest finals heartbreak by suggesting Penrith counterpart Ivan Cleary’s “whingeing” might have helped the Panthers get some lineball decisions in their semifinal epic.
Penrith won 8-6 after a scoreless second half. A key moment happened late in the game when the Eels broke away only for play to be called up for an injury to Penrith’s Mitch Kenny.
Asked about it afterwards, Arthur said: “They (Penrith) have been complaining over the last couple of weeks.
“They got what they were after from the back of the whingeing.
“We’re trying to make the game faster, how many stoppages were there when we started to get on top?
“Bunker gets involved and we had a 7-2 penalty count, the bunker gets involved, for what reason?
“We make a linebreak out of the backfield and Will Penisini gets tackled off the ball and Mitchell Moses is running there to chase and he gets tackled in the background off the ball.”
Cleary had been critical of recent decisisons in his team’s games, and then accused other coaches of trying to influence referees.
Both coaches were under intense pressure coming into this game.
“It might have helped them tonight,” said Arthur of Cleary’s statements.
The Panthers, aiming to bounce back from their shock loss to South Sydney last weekend, struggled to break down a resilient Eels team.
After losing winger Brian To’o on match eve to an ankle injury, the Panthers made a fast start and almost scored when Nathan Cleary backed up Api Koroisau’s break but the Eels managed to haul the Penrith captain down just short of the line.
It set a tone for the evening as Penrith knocked repeatedly at Parramatta’s door but were constantly turned away.
The Eels took the lead when Dylan Edwards allowed a towering bomb from Mitchell Moses to bounce and ex-Panther Waqa Blake scored in the 11th minute.
The Panthers quickly responded when a Cleary grubber in the 17th minute bounced kindly into Kurt Capewell’s midriff for the Queensland State of Origin representative to level the scores.
From there both teams traded blows without scoring until a penalty to Cleary gave the Panthers a two-point buffer heading into the break.
Penrith dominated the second half but just couldn’t find a try to extend their lead, with To’o’s replacement Brent Naden going closest when he pounced after Blake Ferguson fumbled a Cleary bomb.
The bunker however saved Ferguson’s blushes with replays showing Jerome Luai was offside when Cleary kicked the ball.
After soaking up wave-after-wave of Panthers attack the Eels mounted a strong finish in the dying minutes but were unable to score themselves and when Junior Paulo dropped a pass in the final minute inside the 10, the game was done.
Parramatta forward Marata Niukore was twice placed on report during the match, for an off-the-ball shot on James Fisher-Harris and then a crusher tackle on Scott Sorensen.
Former Panther Reagan Campbell-Gillard was also placed on report early in the game for a high shot on Moses Leota.
Panthers forward Viliame Kikau also spent some time off the ground in the second half after appearing to tweak a knee, with coach Ivan Cleary hoping it’s not a serious knock and that To’o is also fit to face the Storm at Suncorp Stadium next Saturday.
Parramatta’s defeat also extends the club’s unwanted record of failing to win back-to-back finals games since 2009.