NRL Round 9: Johnathan Thurston smokes at absolute howler, Penrith Panthers vs Parramatta Eels score

Penrith’s blockbuster clash against the Parramatta Eels has been marred by an absolute howler from the match officials.

Penrith’s 21-game winning streak is finally over.

The Parramatta Eels have pulled off a stunning upset victory over the Panthers in a pulsating western Sydney derby, but the two-point triumph was marred by an absolute howler from the match officials at BlueBet Stadium.

Parramatta was leading by four points in the 39th minute when Panthers forward Viliame Kikau Kikau dropped the footy after he was wrapped up by Eels center Will Penisini near the 50m line.

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But the referees somehow missed the 27-year-old’s blatant knock-on, allowing play to continue as teammate Izack Tago picked up the Steeden.

Eels halfback Mitchell Moses threw his arms up at referee Gerard Sutton, who remained unmoved.

And much to the frustration of Parramatta fans, Panthers winger Taylan May dived over near the corner flag for a crucial try on the last tackle of that set.

The Bunker was unable to intervene because a tackle had been made after Kikau’s glaring knock-on.

“I’m trying to come up with a defense for the Kikau dropped ball,” Fox League commentator Andrew Voss said.

“Was there any signal to say that they saw it as a ball ripped out, even though it wasn’t? It’s hard to believe that it could not be seen.”

Former Cronulla Sharks star Michael Ennis continued: “That’s a blatant knock-on that’s been missed by Gerard Sutton.

“You can see Gutherson and Moses go straight to Gerard Sutton as May got the footy down, saying, ‘Are you serious? Are you serious?’”

SBS reporter Adrian Arciuli tweeted: “In such a big game, that is such a big error missing that Kikau knock-on. Completely changes the game.”

Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary missed the conversion attempt, meaning players returned to the sheds with the scoreline at 10-10.

Queensland great Johnathan Thurston vented his frustration at halftime on Channel 9, ripping into the match officials.

“You can’t let them go, my goodness,” he cried.

“There’s two touch judges a referee and a Bunker.

“You can’t be missing that in big games, it cannot happen.

“This is the NRL, we’re better than that.”

Parramatta held their nerve in the second half to claim a dramatic 22-20 victory over the reigning premiers, who had not lost an NRL match since September last year.

It was a massive result for the blue and gold army, who have shown the rest of the competition that the Panthers are beatable.

Eels captain Clint Gutherson led from the front with their first try and then popped a peach of a pass to set up Ryan Matterson in the second half to give his side the lead.

But heavyweight bouts are won up front, and Junior Paulo and Isaiah Papali’i deserve plenty of plaudits for getting a rare win over Penrith’s premier props.

Not many teams can force Panthers fans to leave BlueBet Stadium early, but then again, not many teams play like that for 80 minutes against a side that is meant to be invincible.

Parramatta will next face the Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, May 15, with kick-off scheduled for 4.05pm AEST.

— with Martin Gabor, NCA NewsWire

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