Maligned Parramatta halfback Jeff Robson starred on Saturday night as the Eels thrashed Penrith 30-0 in their NRL trial at Centrebet Stadium. Last season the Eels chased a string of high-profile halfbacks to mentor young five-eighth Daniel Mortimer, but perhaps the answer was under their nose the whole time. Robson, the halfback who took them to the 2009 grand final, was involved in everything, setting up tries with precision passing and kicking while also pulling off try-saving tackles. The Eels cruised home with a comfortable victory in a spiteful and physical, but mostly dour, affair. A late hit by Penrith’s Luke Walsh on a defenceless Mortimer, who had regathered a kick, sparked an all-in brawl in the second half, with Parramatta superstar Jarryd Hayne and Walsh having to be separated by teammates as the game threatened to explode. Backrower Taniela Lasalo opened the scoring in the 19th minute for the visitors when he was put into a gaping hole by Robson, who set up a try for makeshift centre Ben Smith with a precision grubber 15 minutes later, while tries to Paul Whatuira, Justin Horo and Matt Keating completed the rout. Classy Penrith fullback Lachlan Coote played 40 minutes in his first match of 2011 as he recovers from a groin injury, and he emerged unscathed, which was more than could be said for Eels recruit Chris Walker who left the field with a foot injury in the ninth minute. Penrith, missing the attacking force of Michael Jennings and Michael Gordon who both sat out the match with hamstring complaints, looked inept in attack and were unable to make an impact on the scoreboard despite five-eighth Arana Taumata providing some spark.

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