With the Panthers looking impossibly good early in the second half of the grand final, the Eels had one moment where it seemed the tide might turn.
But just as quickly as the play began, it was snuffed out by some Dylan Edwards brilliance.
That moment makes up one of the five that stole the spotlight as the Panthers went back-to-back.
1. Crichton does it again
Around this time last year, Stephen Crichton put on his Superman cape and intercepted a Rabbitohs pass to score the winner in a magic moment that Penrith supporters still drop randomly into conversations that have nothing to do about football.
This year, it was the same old Crichton, but like Malibu Stacey before him, he had a new hat.
Decked out in the old noggin protector, Crichton got on the end of a lovely bit of work that saw Nathan Cleary get the ball to Dylan Edwards, who laid a cheeky drop off inside to Crichton as the Eels tried to slither their way to a tackle.
Looking a bit like their armless mascot, they could do nothing but slide off the tackle.
It was the perfect start for the Panthers and things were already looking grim for Parramatta.
2. Uh oh it’s To’o
There’s something about little Brian To’o dancing around on the big stage.
With the Eels already on the back foot following Crichton’s waltz to the try line, To’o decided it was his turn to do a Dosey Do with the Steeden in hand.
Finishing off a standard bit of Penrith perfection, To’o got on the end of the final pass, pulled off a 360-degree turn as he tried to get a handle on the ball, then belted across for the try and saluted the Penrith crowd.
In Parramatta, the ghosts of 2001 were clearing their throats to say ‘boo’.
“It’s the presence of Viliame Kikau, keep your eyes on the big Fijian with the blond mop. Watch him run the decoy,” Joey Johns implores in the commentary box.
“It just sucks in Mitchell Moses … he has to go in, Will Penisini’s going out, got to work together on the edge. Moses went in, Penisini went out.”
“To’o, what a start by Penrith.”
3. Black and white and wrong all over
With the Panthers well and truly on top on the back of just being really bloody good at footy, the controversy gods parted the clouds over Sydney, chortled at the tiny humans wearing yellow below, and hurled a lightning bolt of insult square into the chest of the Parramatta faithful.
It was To’o again getting on the end of some clinical Panthers play to score, but the replay showed that Kikau had brought an axe to the surgery instead of a scalpel, barrelling into Mitchell Moses as the procedure played out.
“We’ll definitely go back and check this one though, because Mitchell Moses was clearly obstructed by Viliame Kikau,” the ABC’s own Jon Healy said on the live blog.
“The Eels were immediately in Ashley Klein’s ear. That was a pretty obvious one that really could have been called on the field.”
What happened next saw Healy take the rare and audacious route of coupling both bold text and cap locks to describe the result of the ensuing review: IT’S AWARDED!
“That one is black and white,” the Channel Nine commentators had boldly predicted.
“Mitchell Moses, although he might have played it slightly he does look to get to his outside. Kikau makes contact with his outside shoulder.”
Johns and Cameron Smith were as flabbergasted as the rest of us.
“I will let you talk through this one, Cameron,” Johns palmed off with perfection, unwilling to say what he really thought.
“I don’t know. I’m confused now. All year Joey,” Smith replied.
“He had to run between Mitchell Moses and Isaiah Papalii. He doesn’t. And Kikau runs to the outside of Moses and all year that has been a no try. Yep. The biggest game of the year, we make it up and change it.”
Smith — and thousands of Eels supporters — simultaneously hurled their drinks at the TV in protest.
4. He’s dropped it
Down 22-0 with 25 minutes left in the game, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that what the Eels really needed was a try.
And what they really didn’t need was a motivation sapping close but no cigar moment that would break yellow and blue hearts across the country.
Getting on the end of some lovely work from Dylan Brown and Bailey Simonsson, Maika Sivo looked all but in as the Eels looked to break their scoreboard duck.
But as Crichton made a desperate lunge to tackle the Parramatta scoring machine, the unthinkable happened.
“That’s nice. Brown sends it away to Simonsson. Sivo steps infield. He is going to get over. Oh, he dropped it!” came the call from the commentary.
“He dropped it!” one of Johns or Smith croaked in the background.
“He’s dropped it!” ABC Sport reporter Simon Smale screamed across the office about 15 seconds later, stuck watching a 9Now stream that had bizarrely delayed itself at some point during the action.
Sivo looks utterly shattered on the field.
“So many times we have seen Maika Sivo with space down that left-hand touch line,” Smith calls.
“He comes back off the left foot. We see him there step inside two defenders. Stephen Crichton, what a player. Huge player. He was the man that scored the first try of the night and he is there to save a try. A wonderful effort.
“Maika Sivo, he knows the opportunity missed there for his side. The opportunity to get back into this match with a four-pointer.”
5. The Sattler moment
In a night of few highlights for the Eels, it looked as though Simonsson was going to pull off one of the great individual grand final tries with 23 minutes left on the clock.
With Reagan Campbell-Gillard offloading nicely to Reed Mahoney, the hooker faked, dashed around the Panthers defence, and put in a perfect kick to Simonsson who was off to the races.
“These are brave carries coming up for the Eels. Campbell-Gillard off a nice ball there. He slipped it away to Mahoney,” came the call from the box.
“Mahoney’s going to kick. How neat was that? Now Simonsson. Simonsson sprinting upfield.”
Outpacing one Panther, the speedy Eel only had one man to beat.
But that man was eventual Clive Churchill medallist Dylan Edwards.
Making a ridiculous dash across the field, Edwards wrapped Simonsson up in a perfect tackle and took him out of the field of play.
It was THE moment of the grand final and personified Penrith’s effort.
“It’s a Scott Sattler effort!” came the call.
“Look at the reaction. Have a look at the reaction of his teammates. 22-0 points up.”
The tackle would not only save a certain try, but it took Simonsson out of the rest of the game with a rib injury.
And the ensuing play would see Charlie Staines score the final sealer.
It was a perfect defensive play on a perfect night for the Penrith Panthers, as heartbroken Eels fans resigned themselves to another year of waiting for the drought to break.