SYDNEY - The importance of Jarryd Hayne to Parramatta was made abundantly clear on Friday night, as Penrith cut loose in a comprehensive 38-12 thrashing of the Eels at Sportingbet Stadium.
In front of the first sell out crowd at Penrith since 2010, lock Tyrone Peachey bagged a sensational double where he twice showed the speed of an outside back to outrun NSW game-two candidate Will Hopoate.
Following serious injuries to NSW's right-edge players Josh and Brett Morris — Hopoate is primed for an Origin recall to take on Greg Inglis, but wouldn't have been happy with Friday night's effort, as the Panthers ran six of their seven tries down his side.
Panthers winger Josh Mansour — linked heavily to a move to Canberra — put his hand up for the vacant Blues spot, with another energy-filled double.
In terms of a contest, the western Sydney derby between the top four sides failed to reach its blockbuster potential, but mainly because the Hayne Plane was left on the tarmac — rested after his heroics for NSW in State of Origin I.
The Eels are capable of almost anything this season with Hayne calling the shots at fullback.
But without him, the electric Eels are devoid of spark and direction - winning just four out of 23 matches over the years.
Nonetheless it was another impressive performance from the Panthers, who further cemented their place in the NRL top three with a third straight win — thanks to the blossoming attacking combination of spine players Peter Wallace, Matt Moylan, Jamie Soward and James Segeyaro — the latter two scoring tries.
Moylan's instincts with his halves are growing sharper by the game, and he almost scored a brilliant try chasing through a Soward bomb — only to be collared high by Hayne's replacement Justin Hunt and dropping the ball.
It was scenes similar to when St George Illawarra's Jamie Ainscough tackled Melbourne's Craig Smith high in the 1999 grand final to give away the penalty try which sealed the Storm a premiership.
But there was no penalty try to Moylan because he didn't have control of the ball when the contact was made, and Soward instead potted the penalty goal points for a 14-0 lead.
There were injury worries for both sides - the Eels have Nathan Peats and Darcy Lussick needing scans on knee injuries, while the Panthers lost Dean Whare and Sam McKendry also to leg problems.
Parramatta's Mitchell Allgood was put on report for a dangerous throw.