Penrith prop Sam McKendry has suffered a suspected serious knee injury in his comeback from an ACL reconstruction during the Panthers’ 18-6 NRL trial win over Parramatta.
One week after former New Zealand representatives Dean Whare and Peta Hiku made successful returns from major knee surgery, McKendry lasted 20 minutes on Saturday night before limping off.
But despite the injury blow, the Panthers showed poise in putting away a Corey Norman-less Eels outfit who kept them scoreless in the first half.
Led by skipper Matt Moylan and promising five-eighth Te Maire Martin, the duo combined for two of Penrith’s three tries at Pepper Stadium.
Despite having Isaah Yeo sin-binned for his team’s repeated infringements in the ruck, the Panthers were the first to score when Moylan found Martin in space and the No.6 burst over in the 46th minute.
Parramatta responded 10 minutes later through Bevan French, however Bryce Cartwright set up Leilani Latu from close range to help the Panthers regain the lead.
Martin then sealed the win with a couple of moments of brilliance in the next set, first putting Moylan through a hole and then kicking for Whare on the next play.
High-profile recruit James Tamou impressed in his first outing in Penrith colours, while Tyrone Peachey all but secured the left-centre spot with a dangerous night.
For the Eels, French threatened with every touch in good ball position, and forwards Manu Ma’u and Suaia Matagi also had strong efforts.
McKendry’s injury comes days after the Panthers, who also have Josh Mansour sidelined with a torn ACL, had lost winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak until round three to a knee problem as well.
In another scary moment for the Panthers, another prop Sitaleki Akauola failed to finish the match after getting knocked out attempting to tackle David Gower in the second half.
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin confirmed McKendry had hurt his newly-reconstructed knee and admitted the early prognosis didn’t look good, but hoped it wasn’t another ACL injury.
“Terrible. We still hold some hope that it mightn’t be the ACL,” he said.
“I thought watching it, it was more a knee clash than a bend of the knee. But doctor said he thinks it’s possible he’s done his ACL again. We’ll wait and see what says again tomorrow.”
Eels coach Brad Arthur said that while his team’s execution was off, he was happy with their intent for most of the night – particularly in defence.
“We wanted to get a couple of things out of it in terms of our effort and our physicality and I thought for 60 minutes both teams traded blows,” he said.
“A lot of the attack was scrappy from both sides but both teams really went at each other and defensively I thought both sides were good.”