Eels stunned as Knights win third straight
Parramatta's six-game winning streak has been broken in commanding fashion by a resilient Knights outfit that belied their 16th-place ladder position to rack up a convincing 29-10 win – their third straight – over a sluggish blue-and-gold outfit at ANZ Stadium on Friday evening.
The result has considerable ladder implications for both teams; Parramatta would have been guaranteed to finish the weekend in the top four with a win but now find their top four hopes in serious doubt.
The Knights, meanwhile, draw level with the 15th-placed Wests Tigers in both ladder and for-and-against and are every chance to finish the weekend outside of last place if Manly beat Wests on Sunday.
Young half Brock Lamb was immense for the visitors, helping create two tries and scoring one of his own with seven tackle busts while a host of local juniors including the Saifiti brothers and Lachlan Fitzgibbon provided plenty of crucial go-forward in the middle.
The Eels were left to rue a horror 63 per cent completion rate and their stuttering attack looked hurt by the loss of fullback Bevan French, who they will be hoping to welcome back against the Titans next week.
The bad signs were there early for the Eels as an early error from Mitch Moses and two penalties handed the Knights a prime attacking chance, with former Eels Ken Sio cashing in on a left-side overlap to open the scoring in just the sixth minute.
When Lamb pushed through Eels prop Siosaia Vave in the next set to help create a try for Mitch Barnett, the Knights had raced out to a 12-0 lead in just eight minutes of play.
The Eels got back into the grind and a slick left-side move saw Mitch Moses take the ball into the line and pop a short ball to put Jennings streaking into space with the centre backing his pace to put a move on fullback Dane Gagai and score.
A fiery and scoreless 20 minutes looked like sending the Knights to the break eight points ahead but some late repeat sets from the Eels finished with a Norman chip kick and Brad Takairangi bat-back putting Will Smith over to make it 12-10 moments before half-time. A huge flare-up as the try was scored saw Barnett and Manu Ma'u spoken to by the referee but no players sent to the bin.
Whatever Brad Arthur said in his half-time speech it clearly didn't work as the Eels continued to hand the Knights attacking chances through poor errors. They dodged a bullet in the 51st minute when the Bunker found Pete Mata'utia was offside after seeming to score from a Hodkinson grubber but the resilient Knights didn't let it affect their spirit.
A calamitous error from Kirisome Auva'a from a spiral bomb in the 54th minute handed the Knights a full set at the Eels' line and fullback Will Smith was sin-binned for a professional foul as his team scrambled to get back onside.
The Knights put two tries past the 12-man defensive line as Fitzgibbon immediately charged over off a Lamb short ball then the young playmaker stepped over for one of his own to make it 24-10 with 20 to play. There was a heavy slice of luck involved with Ken Sio being allowed to pass the ball after being tackled on the last in the lead-up to Lamb's try.
It did little to affect the match's result however as even with Smith back the Eels failed to improve and Sio bagged his double with a slick grounding in the 67th minute.
As the match wound down, Manu Ma'u was denied a try after the Bunker found a Moses knock-on in the lead-up and Lamb iced the win with a late field goal that levelled his team up with the Tigers on the ladder.
Newcastle Knights 29 (Sio 2, Barnett, Fitzgibbon, Lamb tries; Hodkinson 4 goals; Lamb field goal) defeated Parramatta Eels 10 (Jennings, Smith tries; Moses goal) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Knights 12-10. Crowd: 13,141
Unofficial NRL.com votes: 3 points - Brock Lamb; 2 points - Dane Gagai; 1 point - Lachlan Fitzgibbon.