The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have been defeated 42-12 by a resurgent Newcastle Knights side at Hunter Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Knights were fired up, coming off a 48-6 thumping by the Brisbane Broncos, but the Eels side just couldn't keep up with the home side in intensity, despite their finals hopes still hanging in the balance.
Running with a fierce southerly wind at their backs, the Eels were on the front foot early. When the Knights’ short kick off failed to travel 10 metres into the breeze, the Blue and Gold took advantage of two strong sets in the first three minutes to head upfield thanks to returning winger Ken Sio, and send Will Hopoate over for the first points of the match.
The wind continued to dictate both sides’ kicking game and play havoc with the ball in the air, as the Knights kicks short again from the kick off, and Sandow took advantage of the unpredictable breeze to bamboozle the Knights with his short kicking game.
The Knights were up against the conditions in the opening forty minutes, but with the Eels pinged for a dangerous tackle, the Knights gained valuable field position.
And as the Blue and Gold’s co-captain Tim Mannah was taken from the field for a concussion test, the Knights used their next play to send Gidley sweeping around, offloading to Sione Mata’utia for a four-pointer in the left corner.
Mata’utia made it a double off the back of an Eels error, using a left-side overlap to slip past Sio and ground the ball.
But with 6 minutes on the clock before the half-time break, halfback Chris Sandow found young second-rower Tepai Moeroa, who burst through the line, beating two defenders and losing a shoe before scoring under the posts.
Thanks to the pin-point kicking of Sandow, the Eels hit the lead 12-8 and headed back to the sheds four points in front.
With the wind at their backs the Knights dominated the second half, beginning with a slick try to Mullen, followed by a double to winger Chanel Mata’utia in the right corner.
Newcastle was aggressive in defence, bundling centre Will Hopoate into touch with the ball to earn possession, and following up with a try to hard-running Beau Scott next to the posts.
The Knights again found numbers on the Eels’ right edge, and Joey Leilua strode through the defensive line to put the game well and truly out of reach at 36-12.
And with just two minutes on the clock, Chanel Mata’utia pulled off an acrobatic grounding to make it a hat trick and seal a 42-12 win for the home side.
Eels co-captain Tim Mannah was freed to return to the field early in the second half following a concussion test, while Knights forwards Korbin Sims was ruled unable to return to the field later in the game.
Ben Smith was placed on report in the 73rd minute for a possible “crusher” tackle on Chanel Mata’utia.
Newcastle Knights - 42 (S Mata’utia 2, C Mata’utia 3, Mullen, Scott, Leilua. Gidley: 5/8)
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 12 (Hopoate, Moeroa. Sandow: 2/2)