With the Panthers looking impossibly good early in the second half of the Grand Final, the Eels had a moment when the tide seemed to be turning.
But just as quickly as the piece began, it was snuffed out by some Dylan Edwards genius.
That moment is one of five that stole the spotlight as the Panthers went back-to-back.
1. Crichton does it again
Last year around this time, Stephen Crichton donned his Superman cape and intercepted a Rabbitohs pass to score the winner in a magical moment when Penrith supporters are still randomly falling into conversations that have nothing to do with football.
This year it was the same old Crichton, but like Malibu Stacey before him, he had a new hat.
Decked out in the old noggin protector, Crichton came to the end of a fine piece of work with Nathan Cleary getting the ball to Dylan Edwards, who laid a brutal drop off to Crichton as the Eels tried to slither into a tackle.
They looked a bit like their mascot with no arms and could do nothing but slide off the tackle.
It was the perfect start for the Panthers and things were already looking bleak for Parramatta.
2. Uh oh it’s To’o
There’s something about little Brian To’o dancing on the big stage.
With the Eels already on the back foot after Crichton’s waltz to the try-line, To’o decided it was his turn to do a Dosey Do with the Steeden in hand.
To’o finished a standard bit of Penrith perfection, coming to the end of the last pass, making a 360 degree turn as he tried to get the ball, buckled his belt for the try and saluted the Penrith crowd.
In Parramatta, the ghosts of 2001 cleared their throats to say “boo.”
“It’s the presence of Viliame Kikau, keep an eye on the big Fijian with the blond mop. Watch him execute the decoy,” Joey Johns begs in the comment box.
“It just sucks that Mitchell Moses… he has to go in, Will Penisini goes out, has to work together on the edge. Moses went in, Penisini went out.”
“To’o, what a start from Penrith.”
3. Black and white and wrong everywhere
With the Panthers well and truly on the back of just really damn good in footy, the controversial gods parted the clouds over Sydney, chuckled at the little people wearing yellow below, and hurled a thunderbolt of insult squarely into the Parramatta’s chest. believers.
It was To’o who scored again at the end of a clinical Panthers game, but the replay showed that Kikau had brought an ax to the operating room instead of a scalpel, and bumped into Mitchell Moses as the procedure unfolded.
“We’re definitely going to look at this again as Mitchell Moses was clearly bothered by Viliame Kikau,” ABC’s Jon Healy said on the live blog.
“The Eels were right in Ashley Klein’s ear. That was a pretty obvious one that really could have been called out on the pitch.”
What happened next saw Healy take the rare and daring route of pairing both bold text and caplocks to describe the result of the ensuing review: IT’S GRANTED!
“It’s black and white,” Channel Nine commentators had boldly predicted.
“Mitchell Moses, although he may have played it a bit, he’s still trying to get out. Kikau makes contact with his outer shoulder.’
Johns and Cameron Smith were just as stunned as the rest of us.
“I’ll let you talk this through, Cameron,” Johns said perfectly, unwilling to say what he really thought.
‘I don’t know. I’m confused now. Joey all year round,” Smith replied.
“He had to run between Mitchell Moses and Isaiah Papalii. He doesn’t. And Kikau runs to the outside of Moses and all year that was a no-try. Yep. The biggest game of the year, we make it up and change it .”
Smith – and thousands of Eels supporters – simultaneously threw their drinks at the TV in protest.
4. He Dropped It
Trailing 22-0 with 25 minutes to go, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that what the Eels really needed was an effort.
And what they really didn’t need was a faltering motivation, but not a cigar moment that would break the yellow and blue hearts across the country.
At the end of a beautiful work by Dylan Brown and Bailey Simonsson, Maika Sivo looked all but in the eye as the Eels tried to break their scoreboard duck.
But when Crichton made a desperate lunge to tackle Parramatta’s scoring machine, the unthinkable happened.
“That’s nice. Brown sends it away to Simonsson. Sivo steps into the field. He goes over it. Oh, he dropped it!” came the call of the commentary.
“He dropped it!” one of Johns or Smith croaking in the background.
“He dropped it!” ABC Sport reporter Simon Smale screamed across the office about 15 seconds later as he continued to watch a 9Now stream that had bizarrely slowed down at one point during the action.
Sivo looks totally shattered on the pitch.
“We’ve seen Maika Sivo so many times with space along that left sideline,” exclaims Smith.
“He’s coming back from the left foot. We see him there stepping between two defenders. Stephen Crichton, what a player. Great player. He was the man who scored the first try of the night and he’s there to save a try A wonderful attempt.
“Maika Sivo, he knows the missed opportunity there for his side. The chance to get back into this game with a four-pointer.”
5. The Sattler Moment
In a night of few highlights for the Eels, it looked like Simonsson would make one of the great individual grand final attempts with 23 minutes left.
As Reagan charged Campbell-Gillard cleanly to Reed Mahoney, the hooker faked, ran around the Panthers defense and delivered a perfect kick to Simonsson heading to the races.
“These are brave porters who come for the Eels. Campbell-Gillard threw a nice ball there. He slipped it to Mahoney,” it sounded from the box.
“Mahoney is going to kick. How neat was that? Now Simonsson. Simonsson sprints into the field.”
The speedy Eel surpassed one Panther and had only one man to defeat.
But that man ended up being Clive Churchill medalist Dylan Edwards.
Edwards made a ridiculous sprint across the field, wrapped Simonsson in a perfect tackle and took him out of the playing field.
It was THE moment of the grand finale and the personification of Penrith’s commitment.
“It’s an attempt by Scott Sattler!” came the call.
“Look at the reaction. Look at the reaction of his teammates. 22-0 points up.”
Not only would the tackle save a given try, but it cost Simonsson out of the rest of the game with a rib injury.
And in the following game, Charlie Staines would score the final sealer.
It was a perfect defensive play on a perfect night for the Penrith Panthers as heartbroken Eels fans resigned themselves to another year of waiting for the drought to break.