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George Clarke

Eels' plans backfire in Penrith loss

Parramatta have fallen short in breaking their 36-year title drought, losing 28-12 to Penrith. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

For the first 10 minutes of Sunday's NRL grand final Parramatta resembled a side that might make the Penrith machine malfunction.

But as sure as night follows day, the Panthers clicked into gear and ensured the Eels' wait for a title would stretch into a 37th year.

Parramatta had recalled Nathan Brown from the wilderness - he hadn't played at NRL level since round 17 - to add some "mongrel" to their pack and ruffle the feathers of Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary.

But by the time coach Brad Arthur put the former NSW Origin lock into action in the 30th minute, the Eels were three tries down.

Parramatta's forwards had spoken of needing to win the fight with the Panthers in the middle to have any chance of beating them.

But by halftime their starting pack had made just 146 metres.

Penrith winger Brian To'o had made 142m on his own by that point.

Eventually the Panthers ran out 28-12 winners but for a brief early period, the Eels gave hope that they could upset Penrith and deny them a second-straight premiership.

They hassled Cleary on his kicks and took the sting out of To'o's yardage carries by kicking to him.

Five-eighth Dylan Brown nearly caught them napping when he sent a chip over the top for Mitchell Moses to chase early in the tackle count and they chanced their arm by offloading and taking shortside runs.

They briefly matched the Panthers for aggression and fight in the forwards but when Stephen Crichton scored in the 12th minute, Parramatta fell apart at the seams.

"They (Penrith) played too well in the first half and too fast for us," Arthur said.

"I said to the boys right now is not the time to review or dissect, we just got beaten by a better team."

Arthur's men tightened up, they put the offloads away and winger Waqa Blake, who was troubled by Cleary's bombs in week one of the finals, didn't want anything to do with the Panthers' swirling floater kicks.

The Eels' conservative approach played right into the Panthers' hands as they suffocated them into submission.

Parramatta had just one play-the-ball inside Penrith's 20-metre zone in the first 40 minutes.

Fullback Clint Gutherson made uncharacteristic errors at the back and the Eels' insistence on going for short dropouts ceded field position and played right into Penrith's hands.

By the time Brown came on the damage was done and apart from late tries to Gutherson and Jake Arthur they barely troubled the Panthers.

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