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Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga.

Newcastle and Parramatta met on a wintery Sunday afternoon three months ago in the Hunter and it was all one-way traffic in favour of the blue and gold.

The Knights, who were supposed to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 2001 premiership, were pummelled 40-4 in front of over 23,000 on a bleak day for the Novocastrians. 

Newcastle were heavily depleted, missing eight players through injuries and Origin including Kalyn Ponga, Mitchell Pearce and Tyson Frizell, as opposed to Parramatta who had all their key men at their disposal. 

While you can't treat that match as a form guide to Sunday's elimination final in Rockhampton, what's occurred for both sides since then can give Newcastle belief in their rematch with the Eels.

"We got touched up by them, it's probably a good thing for us, we owe them one," Knights centre Bradman Best said. 

"They're a good side and they'll bring a lot to the table. We've had a lot to work on and I'm sure we'll bring that on the weekend."

Adam O'Brien's side slumped to 14th after the near full-strength Eels side put them to the sword in June but week by week the Knights have rebuilt their season as the Eels began to fall away.

The biggest drop for Brad Arthur's side has come with where it matters most – on the scoreboard.

In their past 11 games the Eels have five wins and six losses, conceding an average of 22 points per game and scoring 18. Meanwhile Newcastle have won seven of their past 11.

Yes, Parramatta were heavily depleted in a big loss to the Panthers last week and they produced their best performance of the season against Melbourne in round 24.

But how much can you rely on that for a side that has gone 1-5 under Arthur in the finals in recent years?

Currently, Newcastle have them pipped in both attack and defence since the sides last clashed and for that reason alone the Knights should have reason to believe.

Newcastle's struggles in attack this year (they finished the regular season with the second-worst points scored in the competition behind Canterbury) could also become the biggest worry for Parramatta.

A team that boasts the likes of Ponga, Pearce, Jake Clifford, Connor Watson and Best has points in them and if the Knights can make it click they can beat anyone on their day.

That's their biggest challenge though – can they step away from their structured style of play and trouble the Eels defensive line by throwing plenty of questions with their season on the line?

"As a group, we're working on finding a bit of an edge there," Knights halfback Pearce said this week.

Eels v Knights - Elimination Final

"I'm confident that we can produce enough this week for where we're at to win this game of footy and that's what the goal is.

"I'm not doubting the attack either. I know that we've got good enough in us to create the points.

"If it's a 12-12 game or a 40-30 game I'm not sure how it's going to unfold. You never know.

"But I know we've got enough in our arsenal, as a group, I believe in what we can achieve. I'm sure Parramatta will be saying the same thing.

Finals Factor: Kalyn Ponga

"So we will prepare as well as we can and we'll make sure whatever the game throws up, we need to be at our best, because that's how you're going to win the game.

"Big games are won on the back of effort and will to win. If you don't bring that attitude you're no chance."

The Knights are four from four with their first-string spine of Ponga, Clifford, Pearce and Brailey this season at an average of 22.75 points per game.

The case for the Knights to upset the Eels

They enjoy close games with their average winning margin sitting at just over nine points this year. The Knights will want a tight game in expected humid conditions given they've proven previously they can handle the tense moments.

Newcastle's starting forward pack and bench rotation are not an issue, joining Parramatta and top four sides Melbourne, Penrith and South Sydney at the top for metres gained and conceded this year.

It will come down to execution when under pressure and with the game on the line.

Every side will tell you they need to start a match well but it couldn't apply more to the Knights, who have turned a corner in recent months after a shocking first half of the season.

Newcastle have conceded the first try in 16 of 24 games this season and could ill-afford to do so again on Sunday given the Eels have won 92.3% of their matches this year when scoring the first four-pointer.

The Knights struggled in the first half of the season to concede a total 98 points in the opening 20 minutes of games (the Eels conceded 56) but that figure dropped to 52 across the final 11 games.

"Apart from two or three games our defence has been a lot better in the last 10 weeks," Knights utility Watson said.

"Defence wins games and comps. We've got some improvement to do in both areas but I think we've got the talent here to go to new levels.

"We've got a lot more footy in us. If we can unlock that who knows what we can do?"

Who will you meet in the grand final?

Possession is also key for the Eels who have the second-best rate in the competition at a healthy 52.7% average per game.

In their nine losses this season they've fallen under the 50 per cent split of possession on six occasions.

Defensively the Knights will need to stop the Eels and their offloading ability with a clear 302-217 gap between the two sides. 

If the Knights can control all of that they'll give themselves every chance of pulling off an unlikely win.

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