Unbeaten Eels off to best start since 1986

Matt Encarnacion
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NRL EELS New Pic

Ryan Matterson capped unbeaten Parramatta's comeback from a 10-point deficit to beat Penrith

Parramatta fans can officially start dreaming of a breakthrough premiership after equalling their best start to a season since their last title triumph 34 years ago.

The Eels extended their unbeaten start to their campaign with a 16-10 comeback win over neighbourhood rivals Penrith on Friday night.

Not since they last lifted the trophy in 1986 have Parramatta, who retain top spot on the ladder with this victory, opened the season with five consecutive victories.

Brad Arthur's side did it the hard way in front of a crowd of 507 at Bankwest Stadium, stealing the win with a three-tries in six second-half minutes.

The Panthers themselves were looking at their best start since their maiden premiership in 1991 when they scratched their way to a 10-0 half-time lead.

But it was former Panthers centre Waqa Blake who was the catalyst, scoring the Eels' first try in the 62nd minute before setting up Clint Gutherson in the next set.

Parramatta completed the comeback three minutes later when a Mitchell Moses grubber wrong-footed the Penrith fullback for Ryan Matterson to touch down.

The Panthers fought hard for an equaliser in the final minutes, but were held out by a desperate Eels defence.

Arthur ripped into his team for being out-muscled in the first half.

"I gave the boys a fair rocket at halftime before we went out about getting beat around some energy, effort areas," he said.

"We just knew we had to stick at it.

"We've done the work in the pre-season and we finished strong."

The contest started badly for Penrith when second-rower Kurt Capewell limped off with a suspected knee injury in the opening set.

After a closely contested opening 20 minutes, Parramatta cracked first when Brian To'o danced over down the right flank.

Penrith star Nathan Cleary, playing for the first time since serving a two-game ban for flouting social-distancing regulations, stepped up for his first attempt on goal.

The Eels did their best to put him off, with the DJ playing 'Blinding Lights' by The Weeknd, the song Cleary was dancing to when busted on TikTok.

The scheme paid off, with Cleary hooking his shot badly.

The Panthers were unmoved, however, taking a two-try lead into the break when Josh Mansour took advantage of a poor defensive read to score.

The visitors showed commitment in defence, at one stage turning the Eels away for five consecutive sets on their line early in the second half.

Then Blake turned the game on its head.

First the centre stiff-armed Stephen Crichton to score, before he broke into the backfield for Gutherson in the next set to get the comeback in full swing.

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary admitted his team needed more of a killer instinct.

"In that period when we were up 10-0, it was crucial because I just think we just drifted at that stage where we needed to go for the throat," he said.

"I guess the possession and field position finally paid off for them,"