Parramatta have been ‘kicked to death’ by Penrith on Friday night in their qualifying final loss – and that’s not the only concern for head coach Brad Arthur.
A returning Nathan Cleary proved to be the major difference between the two sides, steering the Panthers to a 27-8 victory in front of a packed BlueBet Stadium.
The 24-year-old finished with two try assists and a linebreak, while his towering bombs were an absolute nightmare for the Eels.
Waqa Blake had a particularly tough night at the office, dropping three of Cleary’s high kicks, while multiple errors out of their own end proved costly for the visitors.
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Speaking to the media after the game, Arthur said the lack of pressure on the NSW Origin halfback made it tough for Blake and company to diffuse the kicking game.
“We could be better [at pressuring him],” he said.
“We’ve got to work harder in our kick pressure and not give him as much time to put it on the spot.
“I thought Nathan kicked really well tonight and kicked us to death probably.
“We can’t be throwing blame to Waqa, we’ve got to move on and defend those errors.”
Arthur wasn’t the only person to notice the issue from his side, with league great James Graham also pointing out the poor kick pressure from the Eels forwards during the Triple M broadcast.
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Cleary nailed a field-goal just before half-time to give the Panthers a 7-6 lead, before a penalty goal early in the second half put the Eels in front for the only time all night.
Mitchell Moses was having a strong game despite the Penrith onslaught, before being on the receiving end of Viliame Kikau’s hip in a nasty collision that left the Parramatta No.7 concussed.
Arthur said the 27-year-old was ‘alright’ in the sheds post-game, but the club will face a nervous wait before their semi-final match next weekend.
“He is alright in the sheds,” Arthur said.
“He said he remembers everything, he seemed alright.
“His health is our main priority right now, but we’ve got seven-day turnaround. He is really important to us.”
Parramatta will take on the winner of Melbourne and Canberra next weekend in a sudden-death match.