A last-minute field goal has helped the Eels to a one-point win over fellow NRLW newcomers Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The home side opened their account very early with skipper Romy Teitzel carving through the Eels' left-side defence with an impressive show-and-go.
The Eels were awarded then denied a try when Tiana Penitani mistimed a run as Botille Vette-Welsh set up Rikeya Horne and had two more chances overturned in the next 10 minutes, with Vette-Welsh also making a long-range line-break that broke down one play later.
Vette-Welsh was the player to finally get the Eels on the board with a potent run to set up Penitani in the 31st minute to level the scores at half-time.
Teitzel scores the first ever Knights try in NRLW
The Knights went ahead eight minutes into the second stanza via bench forward Phoebe Desmond's well-timed crash play but Eels skipper Simaima Taufa answered in kind to level up in the 51st.
An enthralling and desperate scoreless 20 minutes followed, with Eels bench forward Shirley Mailangi held up in the final minutes. With full-time looming, halfback Studdon calmly slotted a one-pointer to break the deadlock and hand her side a maiden NRLW win.
Match: Knights v Eels
Round 1 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
The desperation was on display for all two see as the two newly-introduced sides fought tooth and nail to start their NRLW existence with a win and while the late Studdon match-winner brought jubilation for the Eels, the Knights can take plenty of heart from their first outing.
- Rounding out a day of outstanding fullback performances, rival No.1s Botille Vette-Welsh and Romy Teitzel each excelled for their sides with Vette-Welsh providing all the spark for the Eels with some long-range runs and dangerous passing while Teitzel scored the Knights' first-ever NRLW try.
- All Stars combatants Kennedy Cherrington and Caitlan Johnston were at it again, adding plenty of fire in the middle for their respective sides.
- The Eels fluffed no fewer than three golden chances in the first half with Tiana Penitani obstructing the defence to deny Rikeya Horne a try off a Vette-Welsh pass, Tommaya Kelly-Sines producing a double movement and a possible Sereana Naitokatoka try-assist going forward.
- Knights bench prop and local product Phoebe Desmond got arguably the biggest cheer of the day when she crashed over in the second half.
- Eels No.7 Studdon had a mixed afternoon with Parramatta's last-play options falling short on several occasions but she rose when it counted to slot the one-pointer at the death that earned her side the win.
Play of the Game
With scores all locked up for the final 20 minutes, the Eels looked to have stolen the win when Shirley Mailangi pushed her way through at the line but was denied by a blade of grass. However, the Eels got one final set and halfback Studdon shaped to go left before stepping to her right and snapping a crisp one-pointer in the final minute of the match to break the deadlock and send her teammates into raptures.
Studdon wins the game for the Eels
What they said
"I looked at the clock when there was three minutes to go and we were down the other end and I got my forwards together and said 'I need you to work us down that other end, because I'm going to go for the field goal'. It felt unreal, with all the girls coming on me I had to hold them somehow." - Eels halfback Maddie Studdon on kicking the match-winning field goal.
"I'm excited by the young players in our team to get the best lesson they've probably ever got in footy in how to stay calm and play under pressure. I'm looking forward to what sort of improvement we can get in the next week or two." - Eels coach Dean Widders.
"We put ourselves in a position to win that game and put it to bed but full credit to Parramatta, they're a really good side and we knew with the three State of Origin players they beat us up the middle at times which in the end cost us the game. I don't know if it was inexperience or lack of confidence but some players came up with some poor errors. I can't fault their effort though." - Knights coach Casey Bromilow.
Taufa eases her way through for the Eels
The Knights open next Sunday's triple header at WIN Stadium with a tough ask against three-time premiers Brisbane. They'll be desperate not to start the season 0-2.
The Eels round out next Sunday's action against the home side the Dragons at 3:40pm. With each side coming off a win, the impressive Dragons present a significant challenge to the Eels' hopes of starting 2-0.