A focused and faultless Newcastle Knights side razed the Parramatta Eels in their own backyard tonight in a comprehensive display from the Brian Smith led team.
It was oh so sweet for former Eel Boss – Brian Smith and as he played down the emotion in the press conference; there would have been plenty of waves and smiles from Smith as he passed Dennis Fitzgerald on the way home – the man who put him to the sword in late 2005.
Someone was always going to lose out in the battle of the coaches; but this time it was Smith and his Knights who were to celebrate in style, in a win that could really launch their second coming of the NRL 2007 season. Led by their veterans, the Knights lifted across the park behind Danny Buderus, Steve Simpson and Adam McDougall.
Right from the outset the Knights looked eager and were on the board early through a soft defensive lapse from the Eels. There was nothing fancy from the Knights, understandable in the conditions that were extremely slippery and slow underfoot and their smart play continued to pay dividends with more tries and a 20-0 scoreline at halftime.
The waking moment for the Eels never came, with errors and continual poor last tackle options turning the ball over easily to the Knights who played good field position for most of the night. In the absence of Jarrod Mullen (late injury withdrawal) – Knights half Luke Walsh was rock solid in his organization of the Knights in attack and was faultless in defence. The Eels ran some traffic at the small Novacastrian but he answered every call.
The Knights kept the Eels line breaks below 3 and improved their previously shoddy defence, which is currently the worst in the NRL. Danger signs for the Eels, unable to score many points against the worst defence in the NRL will have Hagan asking questions this week.
The Eels loss was made much worse by some major injury concerns; Luke Burt the NRL 2007 leading point scorer was taken from the field after a sickening tangle with Danny Buderus – the Eels fullback dislocating his knee cap and experiencing possible medial ligament damage. Eels centre Ben Smith also played 60% of the match with a knee injury and was to be rushed to hospital after the game for scans. Daniel Wagon also left the field at half time with suspected broken ribs and will be another attendee in the casualty ward for the Eels.
It was a swapping of fortunes tonight, as the Eels tasted defeat and experienced deep injury woes for the first time in 2007 and the previously unlucky Knights getting their first big win (over 6 points) and not having any casualties from injuries.
The Knights are attendees on Monday Night NRL again next week, facing the NRL Table topping Melbourne Storm and the Eels face former coach Jason Taylor and his rock solid Bunnies.