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The moment Parramatta was doomed: star half Mitchell Moses is knocked out in a sickening collision – and the floodgates open for Penrith on the back of Nathan Cleary’s genius
- Penrith is one win away from reaching their third grand final at the trot
- Panthers were propelled by a great performance from Nathan Cleary
- Superstar No.7 terrorized Eels backs with towering bombs and precise kicks
Nathan Cleary once put in a great finals performance to take Penrith to their third consecutive NRL decider victory with a 27-8 win over Parramatta, turning the game over to the Panthers when Eels half Mitchell Moses was eliminated in an Intercept.
In a sparkling start to the NRL final, Cleary stole the show with a brilliant 10 minute run in the second half to take the qualifiers away from the Eels.
Returning from his five-game suspension for a dangerous tackle, the NSW No.7 terrorized the Eels with his trap game and had a hand in all four Penrith attempts.
An ugly headbutt to halfback Mitch Moses, who didn’t look good after being caught trying to make a tackle, added to Parramatta’s woes.
Parramatta was right in the match until Moses was hit after misplacing his head while trying to attack giant Penrith, Viliame Kikau
The Panthers struck with three rapid-fire attempts after Moses left and never returned
But at that point, the Panthers were already well ahead with the Eels staring into the course of another do-or-die semi-final.
Cleary forced three fouls from Eels winger Waqa Blake, who had a nightmare trying to fire his former team-mate’s bombs.
The Panthers’ first attempt came from Blake’s first foul, which allowed Moses Leota to transfer Brian To’o after a bomb spill.
Cleary also scored a 30-yard field goal at halftime for a 7-6 lead, before jumping into action when the Eels took a one-point lead early in the second half.
Sensing Blake’s loss of confidence, Cleary forced another foul out of the former Panther with another towering kick that hung in the air for several seconds.
From the next set, the No.7 Panthers swung the game to the right, gave Stephen Crichton space with early ball and helped him transfer Brian To’o.
Nathan Cleary (center) was huge for Penrith as he returned from a long suspension to terrorize the backs of the Eels with towering bombs and targeted offensive kicks
Cleary then kicked early for Dylan Edwards, who scored eight minutes later, before making his way into space and overturning James Fisher-Harris in the next set.
And just like that, it was 25-8 and the game was over.
Parramatta is now in the same spot as in four of the past five years, with a game against Melbourne or Canberra next Friday to advance to a preliminary final.
A loss would otherwise continue their horror run into the semi-finals, where they’ve been knocked out in 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Will Penisini gets cracked in one of the game’s many huge tackles. Parramatta will sweat on Moses clearing concussion protocols for their next match – with loss ending their year
Whether they’ll have Moses available is also in question, with a seven-day turnaround, meaning he’ll need approval from an independent neurologist if diagnosed with a concussion.
Moses had previously kicked well in the first half before his injury, while Reed Mahoney was one of the Eels’ best when he transferred Oregon Kaufusi for the Eels’ only try.
Penrith also has some concerns.
Winger Taylan May left the field with a leg injury late in the game, having also received a high shot early in the game after being controversially allowed to play by the NRL.
Prop Spencer Leniu was also charged with a high shot at Isaiah Papali’i, with just over a first-class charge to see him at risk of missing matches.