Fuifui Moimoi of the Eels is tackled. Photo: Getty Images
COMPOSURE is not a word associated with Chris Sandow but the Parramatta No. 7 showed plenty of it in his side's draw in a fiery clash against Penrith on Saturday.
After a sub-standard hit-out against the Wests Tigers last weekend, Sandow played a hand in both of Parramatta's tries on a bleak and miserable afternoon at the foot of the mountains.
While there were no flashes of brilliance that have become synonymous with the maligned playmaker, he kicked and directed his troops like a man on a mission in his 60-minute stint.
Looking good ... Chris Sandow. Photo: Getty Images
"His kicking game was a stand-out," Eels co-captain Jarryd Hayne said. "That's the thing that really dominated the game today, his kicking. I think Sticky's [coach Ricky Stuart] been really adamant about him getting his kicking game right and that showed tonight."
Parramatta surpassed their points tally from last week against the Tigers within eight minutes on Saturday night, with Hayne and Sandow combining to register first points of the match.
Hayne leapt above the Panthers defence to latch on to a cross-field kick from Sandow, who converted the try from beside the posts to give Parramatta a 6-0 lead.
At the other end of the field, Wes Naiqama squandered two chances for the Panthers, before taking an intercept off a Joseph Paulo pass to run 40 metres untouched and level the score in the 21st minute.
Then Sandow orchestrated the Eels' second four-pointer with a cut-out pass to Ryan Morgan, before looping around the centre to put Cheyse Blair into the corner.
A late try to David Simmons levelled the match but the Eels took plenty of confidence out of conceding only two tries in 80 minutes after leaking 41 points against the Tigers.
"During the week we worked a lot on our defensive efforts," Hayne said. "To keep them to two tries was good. It's our attack now. It wasn't there tonight but with the wet weather and it being a trial, we spoke about trying to grind this one out. Penrith had the same mindset as well."
Even though it was just a trial, tempers flared between the two western Sydney rivals before half-time and it spilled over into the second half. On the stroke of half-time, Eels back-rower Matt Ryan and Panthers hooker James Segeyaro engaged in a minor push-and-shove before their teammates ran in to split it up. Ill-discipline from Ryan in the second half cost him 10 minutes in the sin bin, given his marching orders for repeat infringements around the ruck.
If Stuart was not already frustrated with his back-rower, he would have been when he was again penalised for holding down in a tackle just minutes after returning to the paddock. It was the start of a fiery few minutes in what was a rather lifeless contest.
The usually unflappable Tim Mannah, who was named Eels club captain on Friday, came to blows with NSW Origin prop Tim Grant.
Mannah threw a punch at his opposite number, who took exception to the mistimed jab, igniting another push-and-shove between the two sides.
Panthers coach Ivan Cleary said the wet conditions made it difficult to take any positives out of his side's attack. "It was a pretty slow old game and obviously the weather didn't help things," Cleary said.
"The play-the-ball was very slow tonight. The referees were getting a bit frustrated in the second half. We struggled to get any kind of fluency or momentum in attack and they probably felt the same."