Luai dislocates shoulder as Eels stun Panthers

Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

Ivan Cleary concedes Penrith could be without Jarome Luai as they push for a third consecutive NRL premiership, after the star five-eighth dislocated his shoulder in a 32-18 upset loss to Parramatta. 

Eels second-rower Bryce Cartwright twisted Luai awkwardly while attempting to hold him up in goal during the first half of Thursday's clash at Penrith Stadium.

The seven-time NSW State of Origin representative remained on the ground after the tackle was completed, cradling his left arm.

Luai left the field and played no further part in the contest but his shoulder popped back into place in the sheds.

He will go for scans on Friday, with Panthers coach Cleary admitting the 26-year-old was in doubt for the finals series that begins the weekend after next.

"Absolutely," he said. "It's a decent injury but (medical staff) are fairly positive about the potential of it

"Really, we're not going to know until he gets scans.

"(It is disappointing) on both fronts, on the team front and for Romey personally.

"But that's the way it goes sometimes. There's often lot of injuries at this time of year in and around finals."

Luai has been Penrith's five-eighth throughout four dominant seasons, playing in their 2021 and 2022 premiership teams, and is a cornerstone of their attack on the left edge.

Jack Cogger, who switched to five-eighth mid-game on Thursday, is his likely replacement.

The Panthers rested the influential Dylan Edwards against Parramatta in preparation for the finals, switching Stephen Crichton from the right edge to fullback and handing Jesse McLean his debut in the centres.

But the changes turned Penrith's right edge into a defensive target for the Eels, whose left winger Maika Sivo picked up a first-half hat-trick.

Sivo confirmed an equal career-best haul of four tries when he slid over late to seal the kind of dominant win visitors have rarely scored at the Panthers' home ground since their resurgence in 2020.

Penrith struggled to contain Parramatta's offloads when the game was in the balance, missing the rested Sunia Turuva and his yardage carries, and could not find their rhythm with the ball, especially after losing Luai.

"It was sort of coming a bit," Cleary said of the defeat. 

"We'd still been playing OK but there's parts of our game that haven't been up to scratch. We got found out tonight."

Fullback Clint Gutherson pulled the strings for the Eels but left the game late after aggravating a knee injury.

"He probably shouldn't have been playing for the last six weeks," Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said.

"But that's the type of bloke he is."

Penrith's biggest loss since round 25 last season, when they rested almost their entire starting side, comes worryingly close to the finals.

It also halts an eight-game winning streak and means that if Brisbane win their final two matches they will usurp Penrith at the top of the ladder and snatch the minor premiership.

The Eels' win keeps them a mathematical chance of qualifying for the finals, although that would require a string of improbable results going their way.

Despite Thursday's victory, Arthur is resigned to a year without finals.

"We only had to find one more win," he said.

"We've got to learn how important each game is, and each moment in the game."