It was the battle of Western Sydney in the NRL Grand Final today, but it soon became all about Penrith.
The Panthers, the reigning Champions going into the game, stamped their authority all over the fixture, all over Western Sydney and all over the NRL dominating the game from start to finish on their way to another title having beaten South Sydney to last year’s Premiership.
One of last year’s Grand Final heroes got things going in the 2022 decider for Penrith Panthers as the Premiers exploited Parramatta’s sliding defence.
The Panthers pieced together a lovely sweeping move down the right edge starting with Nathan Cleary with Dylan Edwards then offering up a lovely drop off for Stephen Crichton to cut through and he just had enough to get passed Clint Gutherson.
Edwards supplied the try pass then, he would spark the next try with a probing run that got Penrith into the Parramatta half again. A few tackles later, a quick move down the left wing saw Brian To’o power over.
At this point the Eels were desperately holding on and after some scrambling defence, they conceded a drop out. Gutherson kicked the ball out on the full and Cleary made it 12-0 having missed his attempt at goal after To’o’s try.
The Panthers kept piling on the pressure and they kept coming close asking serious questions of the Eels defence. Mitchell Moses came up with a vital tackle but it was only delaying the inevitable which came when Cleary’s grubber led the way for Scott Sorenson to make it 18-0.
The Eels desperately needed a break but it never came and the pressure kept coming from Penrith with the Panthers inches away from a fourth try again from a grubber but intervention by Waqa Blake denied them just before halftime giving the Eels hope going into the second 40.
The start of the second half was less dominant from the Panthers, but eventually they came up with another try. It was a second from To’o after a sweeping move. There were claims that the try should have been chalked off for obstruction especially the way the rule has been interpreted in 2022, but the try was given and the Premiers took a 22-0 lead.
After that the Eels somewhat weathered the storm for a period and in the 56th minute looked set to give themselves hope of a comeback after a lovely move down their left but a scrambling tackle from Crichton resulted in a knock on and a missed opportunity from the rampaging Maika Sivo.
The Eels wouldn’t go away and looked set for a try from deep inside their own half when Reed Mahoney grubbered through for Bailey Simonsson. He burst onto the ball and race away but a lovely tackle from Edwards dragged him into touch as he looked to race away down the left edge.
This was a vital five minute period, as the victory for Penrith was all but sealed by Charlie Staines down the Penrith right teed up by the man of the hour Edwards.
That sealed the win for the Panthers, and the game then became about the Panthers maintaining their authority at both ends of the field sapping energy out of the Eels and defending their line masterfully when put under pressure.
In the end, the Eels did get a pair of consolation tries through Gutherson and Jakob Arthur but it didn’t matter as the story had already been penned.
Penrith are a cut above at the moment, at all levels winning trophies at every age level in 2022 creating history in doing so.
Back-to-back Champions, you wouldn’t bet against them making it three on the spin in 2023.