Foran injured as Eels hold off Knights
Despite losing skipper Kieran Foran late in the first half to a shoulder injury the Parramatta Eels have held on to a tight 20-18 win over the Newcastle Knights.
Foran came off with a shoulder injury five minutes before the half-time siren and failed to return.
Without their captain to lead them around the Eels hung tough for the majority of the second half when tries to NRL debutant Bevan French and Michael Gordon allowed Parramatta to overhaul Newcastle's 14-10 half-time lead.
It wouldn't be without a late heartbreaker for the Knights either when centre Nathan Ross looked to have scored his second try of the game with two minutes to go. But it was disallowed by the bunker after he was ruled to have dropped the ball over the line thanks to the amazing defensive efforts of French.
Parramatta had looked on track for a comfortable result when tries to Beau Scott and Semi Radradra saw the Eels post a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes.
The Knights hit back in the 25th minute when Sione Mata'utia secured his first four-pointer of the season by powering through the defence of Radradra and Clinton Gutherson.
Pauli Pauli scored his first try as a Knight three minutes later when Trent Hodkinson afforded him enough space to slam the ball down against his former side.
An error by Michael Gordon 20 metres out from the Eels' try-line was compounded when Foran left the field in the 35th minute.
Making matters worse for Parramatta was the Knights' try off the subsequent scrum when Newcastle caught the Eels napping. Winger Cory Denniss broke clear for a 60-metre run before flinging the ball back inside for Ross to cross and give his team a four-point half-time lead.
Two penalty goals through Hodkinson in the first 13 minutes of the second half saw the Knights' lead extend to eight points.
French's try midway through the second half pulled the deficit back to four, with Gordon's four-pointer three minutes later – after magical lead up work from Manu Ma'u and Brad Takairangi (who injured himself in the play) – allowing the Eels to return to the lead.
The Eels held on to their two-point lead for the final 18 minutes despite Ross's best efforts in the final two minutes.
It was announced in the immediate aftermath of the match that Knights forward Tariq Sims had signed a three-year deal with the Dragons, starting next season.
Parramatta Eels 20 (Beau Scott, Semi Radradra, Bevan French, Michael Gordon tries; Michael Gordon 2 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 18 (Sione Mata'utia, Pauli Pauli, Nathan Ross tries; Trent Hodkinson 3 goals) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 12,856. Half-time: Knights 14-10. Injuries: Kieran Foran (Eels) – shoulder, Brad Takairangi (Eels) – hamstring. On Report: Korbin Sims (Knights).