Eels v Knights: Five key points
The energetic Knights humbled the Eels in a 29-10 win at ANZ Stadium on Friday evening in a result that made a mockery of each club's respective ladder positions.
 Telstra Premiership - Round 23: Eels vs Knights
Knights' fast start stuns Eels but second half the real killer
Newcastle haven’t really had much of an issue taking an early lead in games, the question has more been going on with it. On Friday night they did both, racing out to a 12-0 lead in eight minutes but then showing plenty of determination to kick on to a big win.
"The first 10 minutes they just rolled through us too easy and we gave them plenty of energy and plenty of enthusiasm out of the start," Eels coach Brad Arthur lamented.
"We knew they were going to start hard and fast and we didn't match it."
The fact the Knights both started well and continued well certainly pleased their coach Nathan Brown.
"Our start again was great and it's something Parramatta's been doing really well," he said.
"Over this year when we've stated well and been in good positions, when the opposition has lifted on us we've struggled to hold them out and I thought when Parra lifted and were coming hard in that latter part of the first half I thought we did well with our goal line 'D'.
"Our ability to play a lot better in second halves seems to be improving."
Away win a long time in the making
It's been a while since Newcastle won an NRL game away from the Hunter. In fact it was 718 days – just a fortnight under two years – since an upset 20-6 win over the Storm in Melbourne. Kurt Gidley, the captain, scored a try. Halfback Tyrone Roberts bagged one too, to go with his four goals. Current Dragons back-rower Tariq Sims bagged one as well. Veterans Clint Newton and Jeremy Smith played.
It's an important milestone in the growth of this young but rapidly-developing team, to head to the home fortress of a finals-bound team and return up the M1 victorious.
"It's our first win away from home in the 18 months [I've been here]," Brown said.
"We played a team that had won six on the bounce that a lot of people are talking about winning the grand final and I thought we were clearly the better team."
Eels' top-four hopes take a beating but Knights lift off the bottom
That loss was a shocker for an Eels side with genuine top-four aspirations. Prior to kick off pundits were pencilling them in as premiership dark horses, some even tipping them to get through the rest of the regular season unbeaten and press for a top-two finish.
The Eels can still make the top four but if Manly and North Queensland each win this weekend Brad Arthur's side will be back in seventh and suddenly back under pressure.
The Knights however suddenly find their hopes of dodging a third straight wooden spoon well and truly alive. The two ladder points and 19-point differential boost pulls them dead even with the Wests Tigers who would slip to outright last with a loss of any margin against Manly on Sunday. Newcastle though face a nightmarish run home against Melbourne, Canberra and Cronulla.
"Obviously we don't want the wooden spoon but first and foremost I'm super proud of these boys," skipper Jamie Buhrer said.
"We've got three games to go against some pretty tough opposition... if we can emerge out of that without the wooden spoon we will have deserved it."
Arthur accuses Eels of complacency and letting Mannah down
In the lead-up to this game there was plenty of talk from the Parramatta camp about making sure they win the games they’re expected to win, avoiding complacency and getting a win in skipper Tim Mannah's milestone 200th NRL game.
None of that came to pass as a horror 15 errors and 70 per cent completion rate anchored a lacklustre running game and dire kicking effort from an Eels team that was beaten in every facet of the game.
"All the things we've done really well for the last period of our games we were beaten tonight in those," Arthur said.
"Out-enthused. We didn't kick well. Composure, discipline, patience. We didn't have any of it. All the simple things of our game that we've been on top of, we didn't [do]."
Asked why, he suggested: "Maybe we were looking for a soft win. Maybe we thought we could just come here and get a soft win. They just worked harder than us.
"They wanted to run hard, they wanted to complete, they wanted to kick long. It didn't look like we did."
As for the long-serving and long-suffering Mannah: "It's very disappointing. We let him down," Arthur said.
Offload from ground raises eyebrows
With the Knights leading 18-10 and Eels fullback Will Smith still in the sin-bin for an earlier professional foul, there was a curious call from lead referee Henry Perenara that drew the ire of Eels fans. As the Knights attacked, winger Ken Sio was tackled on the last play of the set before offloading the ball with his free arm.
Refs boss Tony Archer later confirmed the error, saying with momentum stopped the tackle had been completed. It was at a potentially critical juncture; the Knights forced a repeat from the ensuing play and Brock Lamb scored an arguably match-sealing try shortly before Smith's return to the field.
However given the disparity between the team's performances – and the fact the Knights kicked further ahead even after Smith returned – it would be tough for even the most parochial Eels fan to argue the call played any role in deciding the game, and certainly Arthur wasn't too fussed about the decision.
"I think the tackle was complete. If we go in there [and continue the tackle] you get penalised for a flop. But there was a lot more problems than that," he said.
Brown agreed the call was the wrong one but praised his own side's ability to capitalise off the back of it.
"Whether that was a wrong or right [decision], what I liked was that Brock [Lamb] was good enough to score off the back of getting the ball back [from a repeat set] and I would imagine from Brad Arthur's point of view he might look at the decision as maybe being wrong but at the end of the day we were good enough to get the ball back and score," Brown said.