The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have posted a gusty 28-22 win over the Newcastle Knights in dramatic conditions in Captain Tim Mannah and halfback Chris Sandow’s 150th NRL games on Sunday afternoon.
Playing in slippery conditions and 30-45 km/h Southerly winds at Hunter Stadium, any kicking game was severely hampered, creating a back-and-forth game peppered with handling errors and multiple intentional - and unintentional - short kick offs from both sides.
The home side was aggressive from the outset, applying pressure through the first 5 minutes, before making a right-hand side break and bamboozling the Eels’ edge defence to send Chris Houston over for a try.
In the 12th minute, the Knights extended their lead, when a high bomb proved too slippery for Reece Robinson, giving Newcastle a second set of six. Spreading the ball wide from ten metres out, winger Akuila Uate grabbed the football to score in the corner.
Faced with another drop out, the Blue and Gold kicked short and regained the ball, pushing through the middle to find the oppositions 20-metre zone. Moving the ball wide to John Folau, the winger used his size and strength to barge over and score.
Folau scored his second of the day courtesy of a barging line break from Peni Terepo, followed on the next play by a swift pass from five-eighth Corey Norman, batted through the hands of Brad Takairangi to hit Folau on the sideline ten metres out and allow his power to finish the job.
With a double to the young winger, the Blue and Gold headed to the sheds trailing the Knights 12-10.
In the 42nd minute Sandow took the penalty goal option from a Knights penalty, and two minutes later the Knights had their own penalty goal opportunity and reclaimed their two-point lead, 14-12.
Sandow’s boot came into play again with a well-weighted grubber into the in-goal, the kick standing up at just the right moment for winger Bureta Faraimo to snatch the football and score beside the posts and put the Eels in the lead for the first time in the match.
From broken play, Newcastle answered back, as Dane Gagai found the ball and slipped past his opposite number one-on-one to score.
Joseph Leilua’s impressive line break saw James McManus join the Knights’ list of try-scorers, giving Newcastle a 22-18 lead with just over twenty minutes on the clock.
Earning a welcome penalty in the 66th minute, the Eels attacked from inside Newcastle’s “red zone” sending hooker Nathan Peats burrowing over for a try, easing back into the lead thanks to Sandow’s clean and mean conversion.
With just over five minutes on the clock, Sandow boot struck again, as the halfback grubbered in goal for his number 9 to ground the ball just inside the dead ball line.
The unsuccessful conversion attempt from Sandow left the Eels sitting an even 6 points in front, and the visitors held out the desperate home side for the final four minutes of play to post their first win in Newcastle since 2009.
The night proved challenging for the Blue and Gold, with second-rower David Gower treated for a possible fracture to his finger, prop Danny Wicks taken from the field for medial attention for a cut, halfback Chris Sandow re-strapped in back play, and Richie Fa’aoso removed from the field under new concussion guidelines, all within a ten minute period late in the first half.
Chris Sandow struggled to convert in the strong breeze at Hunter Stadium, landing just one of his two attempts in the opening 40 minutes, but the halfback found greener pastures in the second half with the wind at his back.
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 28 (Folau 2, Faraimo, Peats 2. Sandow: 3/5. PG - Sandow: 1/1)
Newcastle Knights - 22 (Houston, Uate, Gagai, McManus. Roberts: 2/4. PG - Roberts: 1/1)