A stellar second half earned the Newcastle Knights a comprehensive 42-12 win over the Parramatta Eels at Hunter Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Stand out performances from centre-wing combinations Joey Leilua and Sione Mata’utia as well as Dane Gagai and Chanel Mata’utia piled on the points for the red and blue.
The return from half time proved lucrative for the Knights with the side managing five tries in just 20 minutes.
Tyler Randell backed up his NSW Cup effort to debut in the Knights run-on side as hooker after Travis Waddell withdrew during the warm up due to illness, in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
The Knights battled a strong head-wind in the first half but despite the disadvantage, the side’s effort could not be faulted.
The Eels went on the attack in the opening set, when the Knights’ short kick off didn’t make the mandatory 10 metres.
The visitors threw plenty at the Knights, but managed to survive the first raid.
However, soon after, a short side ball gave the opposition room with Will Hopoate running clear to score under the posts
The try was successfully converted by Chris Sandow to open the Eels’ lead at 6-0.
In the opening 15 minutes, the Knights worked hard in defence but it proved energy sapping for its hard working forwards.
The Knights got their first real chance around the quarter mark of the match. A penalty for the Knights got them started before centre Joey Leilua made a break down the sideline. His pass to Sione was intercepted by the Eels Ken Sio though and knocked out of play for a Knights scrum feed 10m from Parramatta’s line.
From the scrum, quick hands worked the ball out to 18-year-old Sione Mata’utia, who crossed the line in the corner before grounding just to the side of the post.
Gidley’s kick sailed wide of the posts and the Eels remainded in front, 6-4 in the 21st minute.
The left-side combination was to trouble the Eels again when Leilua brought out another powerful run to pass to Sione, but a one-on-one strip saw the Eels back with the ball.
The pair turned up the heat again, this time snatching a lead for the Knights when Sione crossed the line for a double off another well-placed ball from Leilua.
Gidley was unable to convert the kick but the Knights took the lead 8-6.
All the while, the Knights made a persistent effort to give Eel’s livewire Jarryd Hayne little space to make an impact in the first half.
Veteran Knight Timana Tahu came into the game in the 36th minute for his first NRL game for the 2014 season to replace Adam Cuthbertson. Tahu ended up playing around 40 minutes in his return match.
After a Knights error, the Eels stole back the lead with five minutes to go in the first half when Tepgi Moeroa steamed through a broken Knights line to score.
Sandow’s successful conversion gave the Eels a 12-8 lead heading into the break.
Early errors by the visitors in the second half gave the Knights a encouraging start but the home side were without Korbin Sims for the remainder of the match, due to concussion.
Jarrod Mullen worked his magic when he busted through the Eels line to run 20 metres for his second try of the season.
Gidley’s successful conversion gave the Knights back the lead 14-12 with 26 minutes to go.
Mullen was back in the action in attack and had the Eels scrambling. Beau Scott then squeezed a ball out of a tackle near the line to Gagai, who passed the ball to Chanel Mata’utia to score in the right corner.
Gidley was unable to kick the conversion with the score 18-12 after 55 minutes.
The Eels were again unable to contain the Knights, who sent the ball out wide to Chanel toscore his double, just six weeks after his debut in the NRL.
The lead was extended to two converted tries clear of the Eels when Gidley nailed the kick from the sideline, the score 24-12 in the 60th minute.
More pain was inflicted on Parramatta when an overlap saw enforcer Scott barge over the line in the 64th minute, with Gidley adding the extras to bring the score to 30-12.
Leilua was aptly rewarded by a Rochow pass which saw him run clear to score with Gidley’s successful kick stretching the Knights to a 36-12 lead.
The Knights continued to shut down the Eels as well as their dangerous fullback with more than 22 offloads keeping the visitors on their toes throughout the game.
A nasty head clash took Randell from the field in the 75th minute then a dangerous tackle on Chanel Mata’utia was being placed on report.
Chanel shook off the injury to score his hat-trick when he grounded a perfectly placed Mullen kick centimetres shy from the dead-ball line.
Gidley added the extras to close out the impressive 42-12 victory for the Knights, on a day where all three grades notched up Round 25 wins.
NRL Full Time
Newcastle Knights 42 (T: C Mata’utia 3, S Mata’utia 2, Mullen, Scott, Leilua, G: Gidley 5/8)
Parramatta Eels 12 (T: Hopoate, Moeroa, G: Sandow 2/2)