Parramatta 'dudded' after illegal move from Panthers goes unnoticed in NRL thriller

The Eels have bemoaned a number of refereeing decisions that cost them against the premiers.

The Parramatta Eels have accused NRL officials of ignoring a blatant infraction during a Penrith Panthers try in their thrilling battle on Friday night. The Panthers snapped their regular season hoodoo against the Eels, running out 26-18 winners in Penrith.

It marked the first time since 2021 that Penrith have beaten their arch-rivals in the regular season. But according to Eels coach Brad Arthur and captain Clint Gutherson, the Panthers were very lucky to walk away with the two points.

Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels players during their NRL clash.
Issah Yeo was 'downtown' when the Panthers scored their first try against the Eels. Image: Fox League/Getty

The Eels were particularly furious over the manner in which the Panthers scored their first try through Dylan Edwards, with Arthur pointing out that Isaah Yeo had broken the new 'downtown' rule. The NRL has introduced the rule this year, which prevents players in front of the kicker from running down field until they have been placed onside by the man kicking.

The rule is designed to prevent players from getting a head-start when chasing a kick downfield, but it can also be used in attacking situations close to the line as well. On Friday night, Yeo played the ball and was still in front of Nathan Cleary when he toed the ball into the in-goal.

Under the new rule, Yeo isn't allowed to run forward after the kick, but he did exactly that. The co-captain wasn't trying to chase the ball and was simply moving out of the way, but his actions seemingly broke the 'downtown' rule.

Parramatta players could be seen trying to alert referee Ashley Klein to Yeo's infraction, but the official awarded the try anyway. The Bunker official also let Yeo's actions slide and confirmed the try after watching the replays.

Parramatta 'dudded' by referees in loss to Panthers

Speaking in his post-match press conference, Arthur was far from happy with the officiating. "Not a lot went right for us, with a few calls I reckon," he said.

"I just thought there's some rule changes there that need to be enforced. You can't jump in front of blokes when they're catching the ball, you can't be downtown in front of kicks. The first try was downtown. It's the rule."


Gutherson added: "Rules are rules. You've got to do what the referees are doing. As Brad said, we probably thought we got dudded on a couple of calls."

Cleary said he was comfortable his side were interpreting the new rule correctly. "I think we're adjusting to it pretty well," he said. "I thought it was good tonight."

Joe Ofahengaue, pictured here pointing out that Isaah Yeo was downtown.
Joe Ofahengaue pointed out that Isaah Yeo was downtown, but he was ignored. Image: Fox League

Panthers sweating on James Fisher-Harris injury

Parramatta fans were crying foul on social media, with many also fuming that Jarome Luai wasn't sin-binned at least once. The Panthers five-eighth collected Bailey Simonsson in the face with a swinging arm in the opening minutes, and the Eels winger failed his HIA and didn't return.

Luai was then penalised and placed on report for a blatant trip on Mitchell Moses, but many felt he should have received 10 minutes in the bin. Dylan Edwards also drew the ire of fans after giving a blatant face rub to a player who was lying on the ground in a tackle.

Luai escaped suspension on Saturday morning and is free to play next week. The five-eighth can accept a pair of $1800 fines after being hit two grade-one charges.

But the Panthers are also sweating on a shoulder injury picked up by James Fisher-Harris. "We'll know more after [scans]," coach Ivan Cleary said. "He did it early in the game, he was just losing power."