It has been seven long and painful years, but finally after 2,471 days without a Shute Shield victory, the Penrith Emus have ended their historic winning hiatus with a momentous victory over Western Sydney rivals the Two Blues.
The 11-7 victory marks the end of a winless drought stretching back to Round 17 2014, a day which saw the Emus hold on in a thrilling 38-36 clash with West Harbour.
It’s a meteoric rise for the competition battlers, who returned to the Shute Shield last year after a disastrous 2018 campaign which eventuated in them exiting the competition.
In the lead up to the important Round 3 fixture, Penrith Head Coach John Muggleton stressed just how significant a victory would be for the Emus.
“Within the community, a win will certainly rekindle people’s desire to play – which is the most important thing,” he said.
“We need to restore some confidence in this Club and in our team.
“When we do this, then we will build some excitement and people will want to represent this Club.
“If we can take that first step and secure a win then our confidence will improve.”
It was an uncharacteristically low scoring affair between the two usually expansive sides, with both the Two Blues and the Emus each managing one try throughout the 80-minutes.
It was clear what the focus was for each side leading into the clash, with discipline and maintained possession a marked improvement for in the opening half.
Western Sydney went close to a maximum in the opening minute of play, after former Waratah center Tepai Moeroa crashed through the Penrith defense, only to knock the ball on a few meters out from the line.
A contingency of scrums in the opening period of the match squashed any real momentum either side could produce.
However, thirty minutes in the deadlock was broken after a dubious midfield grubber from Penrith fullback Vili Cerei fell kindly for his scrumhalf Joseph Faoagali, who drew in the Two Blues fullback to allow winger Jo Mar to score the Emus first points for season 2021.
With the Two Blues failing to execute on a couple of second half scoring opportunities, a moment of individual brilliance was needed to draw back on the Emus slender lead.
Fortunately, Two Blues hooker Josh Havea was on hand to provide, with the front rower showing electric pace to slice through the tiring Penrith line and athletically evade fullback Vili Cerei to crash over for a Two Blues try. After scrumhalf Sam Babb converted from near the sideline, the Two Blues were in front 7-5.
With the match in the balance over the closing period and both sides desperately looking for a scoring opportunity, two costly Two Blues penalties in front of their posts gifted the Emus the opening for a historic victory.
Again, it was the cool heads of Vili Cerei and Joseph Faoagali who slotted both penalties, taking Penrith to a 11-7 lead and securing arguably one of the Clubs most important wins.
Penrith will require a herculean effort in their search for back to back victories, with the western Sydney side set to host Sydney University in Round Four of the Charter Hall Shute Shield.
As for the Two Blues, the search for a win in 2021 continues next weekend as they travel to face the Marlins at Manly Oval. Manly have produced inconsistent form so far this season, allowing Two Blues fans some hope in a match which could really define both teams seasons.
In other results around the ground, Norths secured an impressive 33-17 win over title contenders Gordon, Sydney Uni held on in a thrilling 49-44 victory over Eastwood, West Harbour beat the Wildfires 15-9 to collect their first win of the season, Souths finally ended their streak of tight losses in a 31-25 win over Warringah and Easts came out on top over rivals Randwick 31-22.
Two Blues 7
Pens: Faoagali, Cerei
Yellow Card: Seninawanawa
Round Three Results
Norths 33 v 17 Gordon
Sydney Uni 49 v 44 Eastwood
Two Blues 7 v 11 Penrith
West Harbour 15 v 9 Wildfires
Southern Districts 31 v 25 Warringah
Randwick 22 v 31 Easts