After demolishing the Cowboys last weekend, the Paramatta Eels were looking for the win which would lift them back into the top of the table spot which they relinquished to the Penrith Panthers yesterday. The opposition was a Newcastle Knights side who are also running hot and who defeated the Manly Sea Eagles in round eight.
The Eels coach Brad Arthur brought in Nathan Brown and Stefane Utoikamanu for Kaufusi and Stone while his opposite number Adam O’Brien switched Brodie Jones and Tautau Moga for Lee and Mata’utia.
The bookies fancied the Eels, but a 7,500 strong partisan crowd would be cheering the Knights.
Ferocious defences were on top in the early exchanges and it took the Eels seventeen minutes to open the scoring as Ryan Matterson took a Reed Mahoney flat pass to go between two defenders and stoop to ground one-handed. Guntherson sliced the ball wide of the posts as he failed to convert.
There was very little to choose between two evenly matched sides but both were making mistakes with the ball on offense. On thirty-five the Knights hooker Andrew McCullogh twisted in the tackle over the Eels line and somehow managed to get the ball on the ground from a seemingly impossible position. Kalyn Ponga hit the upright with his conversion attempt, the two sides tied up at 4-4.
The second half started as the first had ended, the two sides cancelling one another out. Guntherson broke the deadlock on fifty-nine when he kicked apenalty which had been awarded by referee Sutton after a Knights infringement at the play-the-ball.
Three minutes later Shaun Lane had a try ruled out by the bunker as he knocked on in the act of gathering up a Mahoney grubber kick.
On sixty-five the Eels got their second four pointer after a fifth tackle penalty. Guntherson made the break before passing outside to Maiko Sivo allowing the winger to cover the remaining fifteen metres and slightly improve the angle for the kick. Guntherson was unable to add the conversion, Paramatta just six points ahead.
On seventy-six a spectacular try from Tex Hoy was ruled out as the chaser was ruled offside as he chased a grubber kick. The last chance that the Knights had to level the scores had ebbed away.
There were too many mistakes to classify this game as a classic, but it was an honest arm-wrestle between two evenly matched sides at the top of the table. The Eels return to the top spot and a position which they have made their own in 2020, but there is no disgrace for the Knights who ran their blood to water in their quest for the points.
Newcastle Knights: Ponga, Hunt, Tuala, Best, Moga, Mann, Pearce, Klemmer, McCullogh (T), Saifiti D, Fitzgibbon, Guerra, Ese’ese. Subs: Hoy, Saifiti J, Saulo, Jones.
Paramatta Eels: Guntherson (G), Sivo (T), Jennings, Blake, Ferguson, Brown D, Field, Campbell-Gillard, Mahoney, Paulo, Lane, Matterson (T), Brown N. Subs: Gower, Utoikamanu, Niukore, Takairangi.
Referee: Gerard Sutton.
Ground: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle.