Inspired by a dogged defensive effort, the Newcastle Knights' NYC side charged to a hard fought 20-16 victory over the Parramatta Eels at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday.
In a match played with a heap of finals intensity, the Knights showed plenty of spirit to hold off a determined Eels' outfit.
Fullback Bryce Donovan was the star, scoring a double and came up with a number big plays in defence.
The men in red and blue held a slender 14-10 advantage at the break, while they added one more try in the second to record their eleventh win for 2014.
While Donovan was a standout, the team was also served well by five-eighth Sam Keenan, back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon and prop Luke Yates.
The four-point win keeps Knights on top of the Holden Cup ladder after 16 rounds with the bye next weekend.
Newcastle named an unchanged line-up for the clash after last week’s demolition of North Queensland at Hunter Stadium.
The Knights continued this strong form in the opening exchanges against the Eels led by five-eighth Sam Keenan.
Keenan put in a grubber for himself on the last tackle, before regathering and scoring under the posts.
Fullback Bryce Donovan converted from in front to give the Knights an early 6-0 lead after just two minutes.
This joy soon turned into disaster minutes later when the men in red and blue let the kick-off go dead.
Parramatta had numerous chances to score in the next five minutes, but couldn’t cross thanks to some brilliant Knights’ defence on their line.
As strong as Newcastle’s defence was though, they continued to make basic errors and Parramatta made them pay after 12 minutes via hooker Alex Bush.
The nuggetty No.9 burrowed over from close range to score, while centre Nathan Davis converted to lock the scores at 6-all after 14 minutes.
Newcastle received an invaluable chance to respond after 16 minutes, but Donovan was ruled held up over the line.
The Knights were controlling possession, however the Eels stayed in the match on back of their defence.
This commitment was rewarded after 21 minutes when Parramatta hit the lead following a try to winger Halauafu Lavaka.
Davis missed the sideline conversion, but it was the home side maintaining a slender 10-6 advantage with 16 minutes left in the first half.
Parramatta looked certain to extend their lead just minutes later through fullback Corey Makelim, but a sensational last-ditch tackle by Donovan denied the No.1.
Donovan then went from defender to try-scorer after 31 minutes when he crossed in the corner.
The fullback missed the conversion, but the scores were locked at 10-all with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Newcastle was rewarded for their resilient defence after 38 minutes when back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon barged over.
Donovan failed to covert from the sideline, but the Knights a 14-10 lead with two minutes left on the clock.
Parramatta had a great chance to score on the stroke of halftime, but were once again denied by the Knights’ defence.
Newcastle received the first opportunity to score in the second half, but centre Chance Peni couldn't hold the ball with the tryline looming.
The Knights made the most of their chance after 51 minutes though when Donovan bagged his second try. The fullback added the extras to give the men in red and blue a comfortable 20-10 buffer with 28 minutes remaining.
Parramatta refused to give in though and crossed after 63 minutes to reduce the Knights' lead to just four points with 16 minutes left in the match.
The home side were coming home strongly, but the side in red and blue remained focused to repel the Eels' raids and hold on for a close win.
Knights 20 (T: Keenan, Donovan 2, Fitzgibbon; G: Donovan 2/4)
Donovan, Robson, Mata’utia, Peni, Smith, Keenan, Feeney, Togiatasi, Levi, Yates, Fitzgibbon, Pondekas, Boyce. Interchange: De Saxe, Petterson-Robati, Taylor, Pakau.
Makelim, Goodall, Fuimaono, Davis, Lavaka, Daoud, Izzard, Junior Mauala, Bush, Tepu-Smith, Moeroa, Newbigging, Markus. Interchange: Muna, Raeli, Anderson, Twal.