Panthers bag thrilling win over Eels - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Panthers bag thrilling win over Eels

By Todd Balym 05/07/2009 07:17:33 PM Comments (0)

Penrith centre Michael Jennings said it was the best game of his career. Parramatta coach Daniel Anderson called him the difference.

Both were right.

Jennings made a spectacular return from a calf injury to score a hat trick and set up the match-winner four minutes from fulltime as Penrith claimed a stunning 38-34 victory over Parramatta in an NRL try-fest at CUA Stadium on Sunday.

In his first game since NSW's State of Origin I loss on June 3, Jennings showed absolutely no rust as his blinding pace ensured Penrith snapped a two-game losing streak to keep themselves entrenched in the NRL top eight.

"Yeah I think it's the best game I've had. There is still a lot more to improve too," said Jennings.

Jennings' performance comes just 24 hours before NSW selectors name an Origin III side, and Panthers coach Matthew Elliott is certain his 21-year-old centre will be recalled by the Blues.

"He's a fair player, isn't he?" said Elliott.

"To come up with three tries and put the match-winning try on ... I would hate to be defending him. They must be filling their duds when he runs at them because you just don't know where he's going to go or what he's going to do, but it's going to be quick.

"That was a fantastic effort from him, I daresay we'll probably be short of him next week."

Jennings scored a first half double as the Panthers took a 22-18 lead into the break, then used his pace to score his third and set up the match-winner for debutant winger Junior Tia-Kilifi.

Trailing 34-32 after Eels rookie Daniel Mortimer completed his own double, Jennings demanded the ball from halfback Luke Walsh 20m out from the tryline then got on the outside of opposite Joel Reddy to give Tia-Kilifi a free run home.

"Michael Jennings had a big say today," said Anderson.

"He was outstanding. He was probably the difference between both teams.

"That last try, the winning try ... Joel Reddy's a good player and a good defender and he just smoked him.

"It's just the way it is. Some players are outstanding and he was outstanding today."

It was a true tit-for-tat battle at the foot of the mountains, with 13 tries and seven lead changes thrilling the crowd of 16,845 fans.

Parramatta's 34 points is the equal third highest score by a losing team in rugby league history.

It leaves the Eels stranded on 15 competition points, five points outside the top eight with their NRL finals hopes fading quickly.

Penrith however remain entrenched in the fight for the eight, but Elliott is wary of the club's quick turnaround ahead of Friday's clash with under-siege South Sydney.

Backrower Frank Pritchard will miss the game after suffering a broken hand on Sunday, joining Luke Lewis and Petero Civoniceva in a growing casualty ward.

"It's a very, very important game for us. Next week I see being more crucial to us than this week because we're going to be without a couple of players," said Elliott.

"I can't see that we'll have Michael Jennings (NSW Origin)... if it was down to me we would probably have another one (Trent Waterhouse) missing.

"We need everyone to be playing their best footy."

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