Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Last night the Penrith Panthers were clinical in their 27-8 victory over the Parramatta Eels that saw them qualify for a third straight preliminary final.
The big story heading into the game surrounded Panthers winger Taylan May who had received a two-match ban for an off-field incident that occurred at the end of last season.
May’s ban was postponed until the start of 2023 in a decision that left many fans furious and accusing the NRL of displaying favouritism towards the Panthers.
However, just 12 minutes into the game May was placed on report and sent to the sin bin for a high tackle that will likely see him miss at least one of the games he originally would have if his two-match ban was enacted immediately.
If May chooses to fight this high tackle charge and loses he will not only miss the preliminary final but the Grand Final too if Penrith qualify, but if the winger accepts an early guilty plea he will only be suspended for one game.
This could be a blessing in disguise for May as towards the end of last night’s game he sustained a hamstring injury that he will now have two weeks to try and rehabilitate ahead of a possible third straight Grand Final appearance for the Panthers.
Taylan May has been hit with careless high tackle ban just days after his controversial suspension 😮😮
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) September 9, 2022
We also saw the return of Nathan Cleary last night after he had been suspended for five weeks for a dangerous tackle on Dylan Brown the last time Penrith and Parramatta met and was arguably the difference maker.
During the post-match press conference Eels coach Brad Arthur put his side’s loss largely down to Cleary’s prowess when putting boot to ball.
“Nathan kicked really well tonight, kicked us to death,” said Arthur.
The Panthers will now host the Sharks, Cowboys, Roosters or Rabbitohs in a Grand Final qualifier in two weeks that will likely take place at Accor Stadium as that is where they played the last preliminary final that they hosted in 2020.
Parramatta are now playing for their lives and will take on the winner of the Storm and Raiders next weekend in an elimination final at CommBank Stadium.