It's been well documented over the past two months how Penrith have struggled with a monumental injury toll. Last night's Battle of the West against the Parramatta Eels was meant to be the reuniting of a close to full-strength team.
The first ten minutes showed there were still some notable absentees. The Eels tore the Panthers to shreds, first on the right, then on the left, taking advantage of an inexperienced backline missing Dean Whare, Josh Mansour, and Jamal Idris. Waqa Blake hasn't yet learned when to come in and when to stay out in defence. Robert Jennings seems to be in need of some more seasoning and physical strengthening before he feels at home in first grade. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is also still getting used to the unfamiliar centre position.
There has always been one saving grace for Penrith in recent times: Matt Moylan. His calm head under pressure has been vital to many of the Panthers wins. When he went down early in the first half with a ruptured ankle ligament, you could feel this wasn't going to be a lucky night for the men in black. Added to that was Jamie Soward's shoulder injury thanks to a despicable late hit from massive forward Pauli Pauli and the Panthers fight back was being roadblocked. Moylans injury is particularly worrying. Penrith will be weakened significantly with him out for an extended period, and NSW now don't have a ready-made backup should any misfortune befall Josh Dugan. It must also be noted that James Segeyaro doesn't appear to be operating at one hundred percent. His darts from dummy-half were less frequent and he was falling off tackles he normally wouldn't.
Despite all this, Penrith did launch a comeback once again showing their resilience. Youngsters like Regan Campbell-Gillard and Bryce Cartwight really stood up. Ultimately though they fell short, resigned to hovering below the Top 8.
You can't help but feel though, if the luck does turn for Penrith they will prove themselves a force worthy of their efforts last season.