The Newcastle Knights were beaten 20-18 by the Parramatta Eels at Hunter Stadium on Monday night in what went down as a heartbreaking defeat.
With several changes before kick off, the Knights gave as good as they got against a tough Eels outfit, and had the crowd of 12,856 in raptures for much of the second half as they thoroughly dominated.
Several late errors and poor decisions from the youthful side saw the result slip away though, and if not for some brilliant defence from the Eels late on Nathan Ross would have scored a match-winning try.
Daniel Saifiti was a colossus for the Knights again with 174 metres, while Ross was at his electrifying best with a try and eight tackle busts.
Six minutes in it looked as though the Eels could score when five-eighth Corey Norman launched a perfectly placed bomb down the left edge.
Akuila Uate and Sione Mata’utia saw it out to safety, but five minutes later there was some suspect defending when Radradra made a break. While he didn’t get over the line, in the next play former Knight Beau Scott found enough space on the opposite edge to grab the four points.
Several sets later the Eels were over again in the left corner when Radradra got his try to make the score 10-0.
The Knights weren’t willing to lie down though, and soon after Mata’utia got his first try of the season when Trent Hodkinson put him through a hole. While Hodkinson missed the conversion, several minutes later Uate made a 50 metre break that resulted in Pauli Pauli getting his first try in Knights colours.
Four minutes before half time a Knights scrum ten metres out from their own line didn’t look particularly promising until Cory Denniss found space on the short side to race 60 metres and pass to Ross, who then skipped out of a tackle and got over the line for his fifth try of 2016.
Three minutes into the second half the Knights furthered their lead via a Hodkinson penalty goal to push the score to 16-10.
Soon after, six men in red and blue converged to force Michael Gordon into touch 15 metres from his own line.
While the Knights didn’t score from that opportunity, several minutes later the Knights pulled off another great defensive move when they hauled Bevan French ten metres back into his own in-goal.
Another penalty goal in the 54th minute saw the Knights push their lead to eight points, but four minutes later the Eels struck back via debutant French to reduce that margin to four.
Soon after the Eels scored again, Manu Ma’u offloading 30 metres out for Gordon to score near the uprights. Gordon converted to put the Eels into the lead, and the Knights suddenly found themselves on the back foot again.
Three minutes from time Mata’utia came up with a crunching tackle on Gordon to force a turnover, and Nathan Ross made a break to get over the line.
The video referee ruled that he had been held up in goal though thanks to a miracle tackle, and the Eels held the final score at 20-18.
Knights 18 (T: Mata’utia, Pauli, Ross; G: Hodkinson 1/3; P: 2/2)
Eels 20 (T: Scott, Radradra, French, Gordon; G: Gordon 2/4)