Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels score, NRL Finals 2021: Reaction to game of the year

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There may have only been two tries during Saturday evening’s second semi-final in Mackay, but it was anything but dour.

Rugby league fans were treated to “the game of the year” on Saturday evening, with the Penrith Panthers clinching an epic two-point victory over the Parramatta Eels in Mackay.

Any lingering concerns about how the new rule changes were impacting the sport were forgotten following a gripping arm wrestle in the second semi-final, with neither side mustering a point in the second half.

There may have only been two tries in 80 minutes of action, but it was anything but dour, going down as one of the best defensive displays of the season.

The victory was the first time Penrith has ever beaten its biggest rival in a finals match.

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Although the result was heartbreaking for Parramatta, fans had nothing but praise for Brad Arthur’s side after the 8-6 defeat.

“Take your hat off to both teams. Penrith has been so good all year, so many wins,” Parramatta great Peter Sterling told Channel 9.

“They went down last week and they had to dig deep for this one.

“What a game of footy. What a game of footy.

“(Eels coach) Brad Arthur has got to be very proud with their efforts.

“Two tries in this game in the first 16 minutes, both from kicks. That‘s how unbelievable both teams were without the football.”

NRL.com journalist Chris Kennedy tweeted: “This has been maybe the game of the year. Grandstand finish coming up. Neither team deserves to lose but whichever team does cannot be accused of a finals choke. Immense from both sides.

“Prepared to say that was the game of the year. Absolutely nothing between the two sides. Eels absolutely brought it but Penrith could not be cracked. Won it with their defence in the end. Both teams, take a bow.”

Rugby league icon Phil Gould posted: “Great game. Gripping. Defence both sides outstanding. Eel very brave & kept in contest with desperation. Didn’t have much luck either & struggled for regular dummy half. Just couldn’t breach Panther defence. Panther prevails. Premiership challenge still alive.”

The Daily Telegraph’s Dean Ritchie tweeted: “One of the most gripping, enthralling, physical and ferocious semi-finals I have ever seen.”

The NRL confirmed after the match that the Panthers will play minor premiers the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium next weekend for a spot in the grand final.

Both Parramatta and Penrith deserve to be there, but finals football can be the cruellest of all.

Speaking to Channel 9 after the win, Panthers playmaker Jarome Luai admitted there was still room for improvement.

“Overwhelmed and lost for words, it was a courageous effort, but happy with the win,” Luai said.

“That is semi-finals football, not many points are going to come, so you have to win the game through defence. We defended a lot and defended well.

“We will have to be better next week.”

– with Tyson Otto

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