Penrith powers home for brilliant back-to-back grand final triumphs

Penrith Panthers' big win over Parramatta Eels

Penrith has won its second NRL grand final in a row after punishing Parramatta 28-12 in a one-sided display in Sydney on Sunday night.

The Panthers claimed the fourth premiership in the club’s 56-year history in style in front of a sold-out Accor Stadium.

In one of the more dominant displays in recent history, the Panthers bullied and bashed the Eels in a masterful performance to be crowned champions of 2022.

Brian To’o finished with a double and Nathan Cleary kicked four goals in the five-try win to extend Parramatta’s 36-year title drought for at least another season.

Parramatta started strongly, with some stinging defence and bullocking runs. But it was Penrith that tellingly hit the lead early, thanks to Stephen Crichton.

Dylan Edwards popped a lovely inside ball to Crichton and the centre brilliantly beat two defenders on his way to the line to score.

Cleary converted the try to give Penrith a 6-0 buffer and it was one-way traffic from then on.

The Panthers were energised by their successful attacking raid and Liam Martin almost barged over four minutes later.

Space was opening up across the field as Penrith continued to move the ball at speed and cause the Eels issues.

In the 17th minute the defending champions struck again, a sweeping shift to the left releasing To’o to dive over in the corner.

Cleary couldn’t add the extras this time, leaving the scoreline at 10-0.

It was relentless pressure from the Panthers, and Parramatta simply couldn’t cope.

Three minutes later Clint Gutherson mistimed his dropout, which went out on the full, and Cleary added two more points to the lead.

The Eels had to contend with set after set on their try line, sucking up energy just to keep Penrith from notching try No.3.

It proved too much in the 27th minute when a smart Cleary grubber kick was touched down by Scott Sorensen next to the posts with Gutherson at sea.

The halfback made it 18-0 and the contest was almost over with 59 minutes left. Parramatta needed a miracle.

The kicking game of Brad Arthur’s men was off and the defensive intent of the Panthers was menacing.

Viliame Kikau almost grabbed the fourth try with three minutes left in the first half, but the big second-rower was denied in the in-goal area.

Still, at half-time it had been the charge of the Mountain Men and the blue and gold army had been completely battered.

In the second half the Eels had to be the next to score to have any hope of a comeback at all.

But it was not to be, To’o claiming his second try of the night untouched with a simple move to the left flank in the 47th minute.

At 22-0 ahead Penrith was sitting pretty.

Parramatta tried to claw its way back into the game, battled hard for a response but the Panthers’ defence was watertight. At both ends of the field, they would not be stopped.

In the 55th minute, Maika Sivo should have broken the deadlock for the Eels, but a heroic tackle from Crichton knocked the ball loose. The centre’s effort epitomised Penrith’s class all night.

Two minutes later Bailey Simonsson had a chance down the left edge, when he broke into space, but a brilliant Edwards tackle dragged him into touch.

To make it worse, Simonsson was then forced from the field with a rib cartilage injury.

Soon after Charlie Staines crossed for another Penrith try, his side’s fifth, to complete the rout.

Cleary went close for try No.6, but lost the ball as he tried to ground it in the 67th minute.

It mattered not, even when Gutherson finally managed a breakthrough try for the Eels with four minutes left.

Parramatta got another consolation try a bare minute later, when substitute Jacob Arthur dived onto a well-placed kick.

Twelve points made the scoreboard more respectable, but nothing would stop the celebrations at the foot of the mountains, as the Panthers recorded another grand final victory and cemented their status as the most dominant club in the NRL.

Nathan Cleary summed up best the performance.

“Our first half was the best we have ever played,” Cleary said.

“We’ve put some really good seasons together, but we have never really come off [like that]. That’s the best game we could play.

“We have the big photos when we walk into training every day of the 1991 and 2003 [premiership] teams. Now to be a part of that twice, it is pretty crazy.”

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