Viliame Kikau came off the pine and blew the game wide open in the second half with an amazing period of play which ultimately got his side the round one points.
MATCH CENTRE: Panthers 22 d Eels 14
Kikau scored a barnstorming try in the 43rd minute when he barged over a couple of sorry defenders.
That kickstarted the comeback for Penrith, who went to half time trailing 14-6 after a horror opening half-hour.
Kikau then produced a magical offload to Dylan Edwards which led to Mitchell Moses getting sin binned and Penrith taking the lead for the first time in the 55th minute with Nathan Cleary’s penalty conversion.
Kikau racked up 70 metres from his eight runs, had five tackle breaks, two linebreaks, an offload and a linebreak assist.
Unfortunately his stint was cut short as he left the field pointing to a pectoral muscle and didn’t return.
He was one of Fiji’s stars during the World Cup and was named in the No. 11 jumper for Penrith this week until coach Anthony Griffin switched his forwards pre-game.
Cleary and young fullback Edwards were inspirational for their side as Penrith won the game 22-14.
They held the Eels scoreless in the second half after being blown off the park in the opening half-hour of the game.
Parramatta looked like running away with the game after a Mitchell Moses masterclass in the opening exchanges, but couldn’t run with Penrith with the heat was turned up in the second half.
MOSES MIXED BAG
It was a bittersweet day for Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses.
Moses was the best player on the park in the opening exchanges. He was smashed late and high in the opening minute of the game, but was then instrumental in his side shooting out to a big early lead.
He had to leave the field for a head injury assessment midway through the first half but returned after the required 15 minutes.
Then in the second half, he made a desperate but illegal tackle from marker after Kikau’s offload to Edwards had the Panthers in range of scoring.
Moses was sin binned, and Cleary’s conversion from the penalty put Penrith in front.
It was a desperate play but a dark mark on what was otherwise a good performance from the Eels No.7.
Penrith was under the pump right from the kick off and it took just six minutes for Parramatta to capitalise on the mayhem.
The Panthers spilt the ball with their first two sets then gave away a penalty 10 metres out from their defensive line, gifting the Eels early opportunities.
It was Josh Hoffman who crossed the line when on the end of a beautiful cut-out ball from Corey Norman, and the conversion made it 6-0.
The Panthers continued to struggle with ball in hand as the Eels applied the heat.
But Parramatta copped a cruel blow in the 14th minute when Mitchell Moses left the field for a head injury assessment. He had been on fire in the opening exchanges and was the best player on the park.
The loss didn’t stop Parramatta rolling on, and it was Norman who extended the lead with his own try in the 20th minute.
He sold a dummy and strolled through a weak Penrith defence but missed his own conversion to make it 10-0.
The visitors got a boost soon after when Moses returned to the field.
But it was backrower Brad Takairangi who produced some magic with a peach of a cut-out ball to hit winger Hoffman who went over for his second.
Moses sprayed the kick wide and it was 14-0.
Penrith needed to find something special and it came in the form of centre Waqa Blake.
Five minutes before half time he used some fancy footwork to break through the defensive line and then sprint to plant the ball down next to the posts.
It was a brilliant solo try and made it 14-6 to give the home side a glimmer of hope heading into the break.
Penrith continued the momentum coming out for the second half. It took Viliame Kikau just four minutes to barge his away over and Cleary’s conversion made it 14-12.
Suddenly the home side looked full of confidence and were on a roll.
In the 51st minute Penrith was awarded a soft penalty and Cleary knocked over the conversion to level the score at 14-all.
A couple of minutes later Kikau again broke through the line and offloaded to Edwards who gave to Cleary, then Moses was sin binned and penalised for making a desperate tackle from an off-side position.
Cleary knocked over the penalty to hand Penrith the lead and the Eels were down to 12 men with their halfback in the bin.
Barely two minutes later Penrith went end to end when Cleary dummied and broke through the line, then gave it to Blake who scored his second.
Cleary knocked the conversion over from the sideline and suddenly the Panthers led 22-14.
The Eels were struggling to rally and Penrith put the foot down as young fullback Dylan Edwards and Cleary took control of the game.