The reigning champions, Penrith Panthers, showcased their new talent in a closely contested 22-16 NRL Pre-Season Challenge victory over Parramatta on Saturday.
Despite the scorching heat at BlueBet Stadium, fans were treated to a thrilling display from Jesse McLean, Luke Sommerton, Tom Jenkins, and Liam Henry in the four-try win.
Sommerton got the ball rolling early in the match when he burst out of dummy half and ran past three defenders to score the first try in the 9th minute. The home side quickly doubled their lead in the 21st minute when Jenkins intercepted a pass from Josh Hodgson and sprinted 95 meters to score.
Parramatta hit back in the 27th minute with a try from Zac Cini, who had previously played one NRL game for Wests Tigers in 2021. Despite coming close to extending Penrith’s lead, playmaker Jack Cogger was stopped by Wiremu Greig and Jayden Yates in the 50th minute.
With 23 minutes left to play, a well-placed kick by halfback Jake Arthur led to a line dropout, allowing the Eels to score a try through Isaac Lumelume and bring the score to 18-10. Despite several opportunities to score, mistakes from Arthur and Jordan Rankin prevented Parramatta from building momentum, and the Panthers capitalized with a try from Logan Cohen, set up by Mavrik Geyer.
Although the Eels fought until the final whistle, scoring a third try through Cini with two minutes left, it wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the match.