PARRAMATTA 6 PENRITH 39
Luke Walsh destroyed the Eels. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
IT'S hard to know how good Penrith were last night, because Parramatta were so bad.
With pressure mounting on coach Stephen Kearney after his team was the only side without a win in the opening three premiership rounds, the Eels turned in a performance that was not of NRL standard.
Panthers massacre Eels
Eels players walk from the field after a big loss to the Penrith Panthers at Parramatta Stadium. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Few could remember home fans booing their team as loudly as Parramatta supporters did at half-time and after the match.
At one stage, as the players returned to halfway to kick off again after conceding yet another try midway through the second half, some fans threw objects including 50-cent coins and a gold ring engraved with the initials JB on to the pitch. Such behaviour is unacceptable - but you couldn't blame the fans for being angry.
To call the Eels appalling would be a compliment. It was the type of performance that kills coaches - and playing careers.
Long-serving Parramatta captain Nathan Hindmarsh was a shadow of his usual self and after being so easily fended off by Panthers halfback Luke Walsh in the lead-up to Lachlan Coote's 26th-minute try, you had to believe this would be his last season.
The look of anguish and despair on Hindmarsh's face showed how much he was hurting - but he could never be accused of shirking, as attested by the 52 tackles the tireless back-rower made. Amid the boos after the match, he received some applause - but must surely have been wondering why he bothered to put in such an effort each week.
Some of his teammates were inept at best. Not even the 39-6 scoreline or the fact Penrith scored four tries in 13 minutes midway through the first half to kill off the game as a contest gives a true indication of how bad the Eels really were.
In attack, they did well just to hang on to the ball. In defence, they appeared clueless. Every time they had the ball, the Panthers looked like scoring - and often they did.
To give the result more perspective, it is worth noting that this was the same Panthers side outclassed 40-24 by South Sydney last week.
Against the Eels, they looked like world beaters, and Walsh like Andrew Johns the way the defence hung off him. On one occasion, the Parramatta defenders stood on the tryline after conceding a penalty and let hooker Kevin Kingston run to them.
But it was on the Eels' right edge where most of the damage was done, and from the ensuing play, the Panthers swung the ball wide for Michael Jennings to score in the 18th minute. Winger Etu Uaisele had scored down that side five minutes earlier, and crossed again four minutes after Jennings.
The most remarkable thing about Jennings's try was that he could be seen from the grandstand lining up to have a run but opposing centre Ryan Morgan, and winger Cheyse Blair seemed to have no idea.
The Eels were little better in the second half but after going to the break at 23-0 down, they only conceded two tries before Uaisele grabbed his hat-trick on full-time.
Penrith deserve some credit. They had to overcome the early loss of lock Nathan Smith with a suspected broken ankle to pile on seven tries to one.
However, the Eels simply let them run at will, and the most damning statistic was the 1625 running metres the Panthers made - compared with Parramatta's 935m. Compounding the Eels' woes, Panthers officials made a complaint to Parramatta Stadium management about the state of the ground, and blamed it for Smith's injury.
PENRITH 39 (E Uaisele 3 T Burns L Coote M Jennings B Tighe tries L Walsh 5 goals T Burns field goal) bt PARRAMATTA 6 (R Maitua try C Sandow goal) at Parramatta Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Gavin Reynolds. Crowd: 13,788.