In the first meeting at ANZ Stadium between these two clubs since the 2001 Grand Final you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a replay of that game after heavy underdogs Newcastle shot to a quick 12-0 lead after 10 mins. Although Parramatta hit back twice before halftime Newcastle were never troubled in the 2nd half running away with their third straight win.
Newcastle have had no issues starting games well this season especially in the last two weeks and they once again came out of the blocks firing putting on two tries in the first ten minutes for the third straight week.
Although the lead was pegged back to just two points going into half time the second half was all one way traffic as Newcastle dominated Parramatta in every aspect of the game in what was probably their best win under Nathan Brown. They had their fair slice of luck with Will Smith being sin binned and the Ken Sio pass off the ground but Brad Arthur admitted as much in his post game interview that The Knights wanted it more and played tougher than his men.
The Knights pack had another big game with their young forwards improving week by week they stream rolled an Eels pack which had been doing the same to most sides in their six match winning streak, it’s hard to pick out one player for special praise but Lachlan Fitzgibbon played his best game of his career whilst Dane Gagai and Brock Lamb enjoyed playing off the back of their forwards having a hand in all 5 tries.
Brown keeping it calm
Nathan Brown would have to be one of the more ‘chilled’ coaches in the NRL, while other coaches press conferences can be great entertainment after a loss Brown has kept calm. Despite suffering so many losses and being on the end of plenty of poor decisions Brown has resisted the urge to blame the officials or question his players, instead he has remained level headed and spoke about only being concerned about what his side is doing and on how they’re working on improving things.
Now after his sides third straight win and probably the best under his watch you could excuse Brown for getting a bit excited or basking in the glory but he remained composed and didn’t get carried away. He again spoke about what his side had done well and how they had improved in areas which had been an issue earlier in the season.
Twice Brown was asked about the game and rise of young 5/8 Brock Lamb, and after how well Lamb has bounced back from some tough games you could excuse Brown for getting carried away praising his young star. But Brown didn’t get carried away and again pointed out how he was happy with how Lamb was progressing and how he had improved throughout the season.
This level headed attitude from their coach is a great example for this young side to follow, it takes great strength to remain calm in a crisis but also to remain grounded when things are going well.
Parramatta came into this game flying after winning six straight and were being talked about not only as a top four side but a potential Grand Final Winner. The Eels players might have been reading some of their own press and thought this would be a ‘soft win’ as Brad Arthur described it in his post match interview but they were rudely shocked by Newcastle.
Looking at this game during the week it seemed only ‘complacency’ could stop Parramatta from winning and Arthur would have been talking about it all week about Newcastle and their fast starts, but sometimes not matter how much you talk about not doing something it still happens and Parramatta definitely were complacent.
All the little things which had worked so well for the Eels during this winning streak seemed to go out the window as they struggled to complete sets and their last tackle options were poor. Parramatta will hope this was the game they needed to lose going into the finals.
Will Smith Sin Bin
Despite Newcastle’s fast start the game was still in the balance just after halftime with Newcastle holding a 12-10 lead but the turning point of the game came in the 54th minute when Kirisome Auva’a dropped a Brock Lamb bomb and Newcastle regathered on the Eels try line.
With Newcastle certain to score fullback Will Smith performed a ‘professional foul’ and tackled a Knights player whilst offside which gave the referee no option but to sin bin the former Knights junior.
Newcastle wasted no time taking advantage of the extra man as Fitzgibbon scored after running onto a clever short ball from Brock Lamb, but The Knights weren’t done yet as they crossed the line again six minutes later as Lamb again took the line on but this time for a solo effort try next to the posts.
Although Smith who was a late inclusion for Bevan French had no choice but to perform the professional foul to stop The Knights from scoring it ended up being more costly in the end as Parramatta never recovered from the two tries Newcastle were able to score during Smith’s sin bin.
Newcastle Knights 29 (Sio 2, Barnett, Fitzgibbon, Lamb tries; Hodkinson 4 goals; Lamb field goal) defeated Parramatta Eels 10 (Jennings, Smith tries; Moses goal) at ANZ Stadium.