Penrith Panthers smoke Hayne-less Parramatta
The importance of Jarryd Hayne to Parramatta was made abundantly clear on Friday night, as Penrith cut loose in a comprehensive 38-12 thrashing of the Eels at Sportingbet Stadium.
In front of the first sell out crowd at Penrith since 2010, lock Tyrone Peachey bagged a sensational double where he twice showed the speed of an outside back to outrun NSW game-two candidate Will Hopoate.
Following serious injuries to NSW's right-edge players Josh and Brett Morris - Hopoate is primed for an Origin recall to take on Greg Inglis, but wouldn't have been happy with Friday night's effort, as the Panthers ran six of their seven tries down his side.
Panthers winger Josh Mansour - linked heavily to a move to Canberra - put his hand up for the vacant Blues spot, with another energy-filled double.
In terms of a contest, the western Sydney derby between the top four sides failed to reach its blockbuster potential, but mainly because the Hayne Plane was left on the tarmac - rested after his heroics for NSW in State of Origin I.
The Eels are capable of almost anything this season with Hayne calling the shots at fullback.
But without him, the electric Eels are devoid of spark and direction - winning just four out of 23 matches over the years.
Nonetheless it was another impressive performance from the Panthers, who further cemented their place in the NRL top three with a third straight win - thanks to the blossoming attacking combination of spine players Peter Wallace, Matt Moylan, Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro - the latter two scoring tries.
Moylan's instincts with his halves are growing sharper by the game, and he almost scored a brilliant try chasing through a Soward bomb - only to be collared high by Hayne's replacement Justin Hunt and dropping the ball.
It was scenes similar to when St George Illawarra's Jamie Ainscough tackled Melbourne's Craig Smith high in the 1999 grand final to give away the penalty try which sealed the Storm a premiership.
But there was no penalty try to Moylan because he didn't have control of the ball when the contact was made, and Soward instead potted the penalty goal points for a 14-0 lead.
There were injury worries for both sides - the Eels have Nathan Peats and Darcy Lussick needing scans on knee injuries, while the Panthers lost Dean Whare and Sam McKendry also to leg problems.
Parramatta's Mitchell Allgood was put on report for a dangerous throw.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur appeared particularly concerned over key player Peats, as he suffered a recurrence of a knee problem.
Arthur said Hayne's absence had little effect on the outcome of the match and defended his decision to rest him.
"I have to go on the advice of the staff and they said he was too big a risk factor and we'd much rather miss him tonight than for six to eight weeks," he said.
"It's got nothing to do with Jarryd for me. Maybe we tried too hard in the first half to create things that weren't there - but when you complete at 56 per cent it's very hard to come up with repeat sets.
"The difference was our start wasn't real good. We didn't turn up in that first bit."
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary praised his side for the way they got on with business after centre Jamal Idris was given indefinite leave to deal with some personal issues.
Cleary said he has no idea when Idris might be back and said it wasn't a football matter.
He believes the Panthers are building nicely.
"We've been working towards this for a long time," he said.
"There's a long way to go but we're certainly showing some consistency which helps."
Penrith Panthers 38 (J Mansour 2 T Peachey 2 J Segeyaro J Soward I Yeo tries J Soward 5 goals) Parramatta Eels 12 (C Norman P Pauli tries C Sandow 2 goals) at Sportingbet Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Gavin Morris. Crowd: 19,141