Eels set for finals after defeating Knights
The Eels planted one foot in the finals zone and became the first team in the 2015 Auckland Nines with two wins, snatching a heart-stopping 21-15 victory over the Knights in the dying seconds of their second-round game.
The Eels shot out of the blocks with a blistering try to one of the stars of last year's tournament Semi Radradra. Receiving a floating ball out wide with just a hint of space, the winger skipped out of one tackle and shrugged off two more defenders on a long-range gallop to the line, running it around to the bonus zone despite the attention of further defenders for an early 7-0 lead.
The Knights hit straight back through Nathan Ross who raced through on a good kick to the corner from new recruit Carlos Tuimavave, but Parramatta stretched their lead through captain Chris Sandow, who produced an evasive angled run at the Knights' line to slide between two defenders out wide and make it 11-4.
The Eels started the second half much like the first, scoring after less than a minute through Corey Norman, whose devious dummy sent him through the line untouched to score right next to the bonus zone, but Semi Radradra missed the straightforward conversion.
A soft try to Chris Houston in the bonus zone kept the Knights in the hunt, with Tyrone Roberts' easy conversion making it 15-11 with five minutes to play.
Newcastle levelled up through Joe Tapine shortly after, but Roberts wasn't able to convert his try from out wide, meaning the scores stayed level.
Radradra then produced a stunning take from an attacking cross-field kick from Roberts that seemed destined to lead to a Sione Mata'utia try, before an absolute pinpoint kick from Chris Sandow inside his own 40 stopped just inside the Knights' dead-ball line, creating a goal-line dropout with enough time left for the Eels to have one set on the attack.
It proved vital, as a powerful solo try to Tepai Moeroa, reaching out to plant the ball with defenders all over him just seconds before full-time, handed the Eels a 21-15 win.
Eels back-rower Joseph Paulo said there was a simple reason for his team's successful freeflowing style at the Nines.
"We're just enjoying it," he said. "It was a key thing that Brad said to do. We worked hard in the off-season but now it's about having fun out there and enjoying playing together. It's all about putting a smile on our faces."