PARRAMATTA EELS v NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
Round 16, 2014 NRL Premiership
Sunday June 29, Kick-Off: 3pm
Venue: Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
Referees: Jared Maxwell, Henry Perenara
Last Time They Met:
Newcastle farewelled the 2013 regular season in style with a comprehensive 54-6 smashing of Parramatta at Hunter Stadium.
The Knights have won six of their past nine clashes against Parramatta dating back to 2007.
In fact, the Eels haven't beaten Newcastle since 2009 - a dominant 40-8 triumph at Parramatta Stadium in Round 22.
1. Darius Boyd, 2. James McManus, 3. Dane Gagai, 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Aku Uate, 6. Jarrod Mullen, 7. Kurt Gidley (c), 8. David Fa'alogo, 9. Adam Clydsdale, 10. Willie Mason, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14. Tyrone Roberts, 15. Korbin Sims, 17. Kade Snowden, 18. Chris Houston, 19. Joseph Tapine.
Hayne (c), Radradra, Morgan, Tonga, Toutai, Norman, Sandow, Mannah (c), De Gois, Junior.Paulo, Edwards, Pauli, Joseph.Paulo. Interchange: Gower, Allgood, Terepo, Lussick, Tanginoa.
It's amazing what two competition points can do for a sides confidence.
Just ask the Newcastle Knights, a team buzzing this week on the back of beating North Queensland last Monday night.
Club assistant coach Rick Stone says the eight-point win over the Cowboys has significantly lifted spirits in the camp heading into Sunday's clash against Parramatta.
"It was a good win," Stone says.
"We’ve been working hard for a while now and we’ve played a little bit without luck.
"We’ve also probably struggled to put two halves together, but it was good to see us score some points.
"It was great to get the backline movement going and seeing Darius get involved."
As impressive as the Knights were against the Cowboys, Stone knows the men in red and blue must lift another gear to beat Parramatta.
The Eels have been one of the most improved teams in the NRL this season, especially with superstar Jarryd Hayne in the peak of his powers.
While Stone believes you can't keep Hayne completely quiet, he says you can still limit his time and effectiveness with the ball.
"You can probably coach in situations where you know Hayne is going to be involved," he explains.
"You can do the best job you can without shutting him down totally, because I don’t know if that’s absolutely possible.
"Kick returns is good start and doing a good job there and when he plays out the back you need to be on guard.
"So you need to be working hard on the inside, while your middles can put a bit of pressure on their halves to play early and for Hayne to get the ball early."
The Knights' forwards were strong against the Cowboys last week and Stone hopes they can continue that form on Sunday.
"I thought our big boys did a great job last week," he says.
"We’ll also get a couple of forwards back in Dave Fa'alogo and Kade Snowden and that will help boost us and give us a bit more depth there.
"Parramatta is a fairly athletic and powerful pack, so we'll need them."
Darius Boyd vs Jarryd Hayne
Strap yourself in, because this match-up should be an absolute cracker.
Boyd rediscovered his mojo against the Cowboys last week, while Hayne is arguably in career best form.
Stone has no doubts Darius will be ready for this clash.
"I thought Darbs came back with a really good attitude from Origin," Stone says.
"He was up for a big one.
"He trained the day after Origin, so he was ready to play and it showed in the way that he played.
"He got involved early and he had plenty of touches, while his influence on the game was massive.
"He scored a good try and laid on a couple as well."
Kurt Gidley vs Chris Sandow
Gidley retains the halfback position after excelling in the No.7 jumper against the Cowboys last Monday.
From extra energy through to his will to win, the skipper provided plenty of spark for the Knights' backline.
Stone says he was highly impressed with Gidley's effort in the halves.
"I thought Kurt was good at halfback and his combination with Boyd was really good and it gave us some thrust and potency," he beams.
"Kurt likes to get his hands on the ball and he buzzes a bit when he plays halfback or even fullback.
"He feels that he has probably got a stronger influence on the team."
Aku Uate vs Semi Radradra
The two Fijian flyers may be playing on opposite wings, but Stone remains excited as ever about this match-up.
"Semi is on the different side to Aku at this stage, but it’s great to see two Fijian entertainers playing in the same game," he enthuses.
"Hopefully we can see a few more tries for Aku, as he has been showing us in the last few weeks.
"Semi is a bit of a cult figure down there at Parramatta
"I had a bit to do with him at the World Cup and he has evolved outstandingly since then.
"His carries and try scoring ability is fantastic, while his ability with the footy is underrated as well."
Player to watch:
The lad hailing from Grafton starred playing in his new utility hooking role against North Queensland last Monday.
In just 36 minutes of footy, he scored a try, made 21 tackles and amassed 54 running metres.
Stone expects Roberts to continue this form against Parramatta on Sunday.
"Tyrone's defence was outstanding in the middle and some of his passes from dummy half were really good," he says.
"He got his halves on the outside of their men and created a bit of space for us.
"Tyrone is still evolving as his NRL career continues and to have a break every now and then won’t hurt him at all."
Where it will be won:
Newcastle should be confident heading into this clash against Parramatta, especially after last week's win over the Cowboys.
That said, the Knights can't afford to be complacent against the resurgent Eels.
Led by Kangaroos and Origin superstar Jarryd Hayne, the blue and gold play plenty of free-flowing footy.
This is particularly the case at Pirtek Stadium, where the Eels haven't been beaten this season.
While Parramatta will be tough to topple, the Knights possess the players to get the job done away from home in a tight one.