Photo: Paul Barkley (c) NRL Photos

Young Eels beaten on the buzzer in NYC thriller

The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have been denied on the final siren, defeated 26-24 by the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium on Monday night. 

The Round 12 clash saw Blue and Gold winger Jermaine Mati-Leifi score a hattrick, but the young Knights came through with a try in the dying seconds and a conversion after the buzzer to pull off the two-point win.

The Knights took the first set against a reshuffled Blue and Gold line up, with Dean Matterson stepping in as Eels fullback in place of Bevan French, and SG Ball Tangi Hokai making his first appearance in Under 20s.

Newcastle applied pressure early, sending a cross-field bomb up the left wing in the fourth minute for Matthew Soper-Lawler to leap, collect and ground the ball for a 4-0 lead.

The visitors answered back ten minutes later as centre Tyrell Fuimaono put in a strong run up the right edge, and Jamie Stowers came close but was held up next to the posts. From 5 metres out, Matterson sent a long cut-out ball to the right wing for James Gammidge to put the Eels on the board.

Five-eighth Michael Doolan converted to give the Blue and Gold a 6-4 lead. 

The Knights kick off from the Eels first try of the match went long, gifting the Eels another set, and Dargan sent his own long ball left to Jermaine Mati-Leifi to score in the 17th minute. 

Kainoa Gudgeon hit a short ball in the 27th minute and broke the line to score for the home side, but with five-eighth Jake McNamara’s conversion hitting the goal post, the Eels clung onto a slim two-point lead, 10-8.

Mati-Leifi found his second four-pointer of the night in the 37th minute off the back of some strong runs through the middle, and another cut-out ball, but the Newcastle Knights pulled off some magic in the final seconds before half time to lock up the game. 

Winger Soper-Lawler grubbered from the sideline, collected and offloaded to Henry Penn to go more than 50 metres and score on the siren. A neat conversion from McNamara sent the two sides back to the sheds tied up at 14-14.

The Knights started strongly again after the break, sending Zac Hosking across under the posts after 13 minutes of play, while Mati-Leifi made it a hat trick with a try in the 56th minute to bring the Eels within two points of Newcastle. 

With 13 minutes remaining on the clock, a strong support run from Alex Twal saw him score next to the posts to put the Eels two points up, with a Michael Doolan conversion giving the Blue and Gold a 24-20 lead late in the game.

The Knights cam close int he final ten minutes, only to he undone by a knock on right on the tryline, and a pass to ground in subsequent attacking sets. 

A penalty in the final two minutes gave the Knights an opportunity starting inside the 30 methre line, and a long pass to the right edge gave Gudgeon his second four-pointer of the night. The late try locked the scores up again at 24-24, giving Knights’ five-eighth McNamara a kick after the siren to try and put the game away.

Tensions boiled over between the two sides as the siren went, but McNamara nailed the kick between the posts, giving the Knights a down-to-the-wire 26-24 win in front of their home crowd.

Newcastle Knights - 26 (Soper-Lawler, Gudgeon 2, Penn, Hosking. McNamara: 3/5

Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 24 (Gammidge, Mati-Leifi 3, Twal. Doolan: 2/5)