The Parramatta Eels’ finals hopes were sent spiraling down the toilet tonight, as the Brian Smith coached Newcastle Knights totally out-enthused and out-played them at Energy Australia Stadium; the Knights hammering the Eels 28-12 in a dominant display.
For the Knights, their NRL finals chances went into overdrive as they now see themselves sitting in the NRL top 8 – with only 5 rounds left to play in the 2008 NRL season.
The win would have been special for former Eels coach Brian Smith, chalking up game no. 500 in the coaching seat. Regardless of what he says publicly, there is no question Brian Smith would enjoy heaping misery on his former employers and their decision to let him go as head coach.
Adding to excitement just after kick-off; serial pest Peter Hore charged on to the field and jumped on a tackled Fui Fui Moi Moi, before being carted away by security, but the distraction did nothing to dull the Knights intensity.
When the game go going again, Newcastle totally ambushed the Eels, barging over through Chris Houston in just the 6th minute, confirming Brian Smith’s decision to promote the backrower into the starting side a coaching masterstroke. Houston piercing the Eels defence way too easily, especially considering the early stages of the game.
The Knights strolled in again soon after when some slick passing from Danny Buderus and Adam MacDougall resulted in a try to winger James McManus in the 14th minute.
The Knights were able to apply more attacking pressure courtesy of a Jarrod Mullen 40-20, and it didn’t take long for the Eels to crack, with MacDougall going over in the 18th minute to make it 14-nil.
Errant kicking from Gidley was the only thing keeping the Eels in the contest, he was only able convert one of the opening three four pointers, keeping Parramatta within striking range.
But the Eels defence continued to open up like Sydney Heads, Mark Taufua barged his way over in the 34th minute to make it 18-nil, and Gidley’s radar finally returned to stretch the home side’s lead to twenty.
The Eels were reduced to sixteen fit players when fullback Luke Burt succumbed to a rib injury, but they were able to pull a try back in the shadows of half time courtesy of Joel Reddy, with Krisnan Inu adding the extras from the touchline to give the Eels a sniff at the break.
The Knight stretched their lead out to 22-6 in the 51st minute when Scott Dureau added a penalty after Gidley was caught in a high tackle by Weller Hauraki, and when pocket rocket Junior Sau forced his way over in the 55th minute, the game was as good as over.
The Knights’ then turned to their third kicker of the night, and Cory Paterson duly rubbed salt into the Eels wounds, nailing a tough conversion attempt to make it 28-6 with more than a quarter of the game remaining.
Todd Lowrie added a consolation try for the Eels in the 71st minute proving the Eels can play when they want to, but the final try of the night showed the Knights were the far more desperate team, as Steve Simpson won the race to a Dureau grubber to round out a dominant display.
Eels halfback Brett Finch summed up the thoughts of most pundits when talking on Fox Sports after the match.
“Our season’s done now,” said Finch.
Parramatta mentor Michael Hagan was more upbeat, and paid tribute to the home side’s performance.
“I think you’ve got to give them some credit for how well they played.
“They got the benefit of some momentum and played very well.”
The former Knights mentor showed he hadn’t lost his sense of humour when reflecting on the early interruption of serial pest Peter Hore.
“Finchy came up with a dominant tackle, third man in,” said Hagan, referring to his halfback’s impressive tackle to subdue Hore before security arrived.
Knights mentor Brian Smith was understandably upbeat after guiding his side to a dominant win in his 500th game as an NRL coach.
“We got what we were after tonight… we’ve just got to keep winning”.
He was, however, quick to point out that his side had achieved nothing as yet this season.
“You can get too there’s absolutely no prize whatsoever for being in the eight after 21 rounds,” said Smith.
NEWCASTLE 32 (C Houston A MacDougall J McManus J Sau S Simpson M Taufua tries K Gidley 2 S Dureau C Paterson goals)bt PARRAMATTA 12 (T Lowrie J Reddy tries K Inu 2 goals) at EnergyAustralia Stadium. Referee: J Robinson. Crowd: 16,435.