Knights 14 Eels 6
Fuifui Moimoi obviously thought he’d spotted a weak link in the shape of Jarrod Mullen, and ran the ball at the Knights five-eighth over and over again, only to be met with impenetrable defence – over and over again. Photo: Getty Images
If it wasn't the game from hell, it was from a place nearby. But they can't all be jewels, and one of the beautiful things about rugby league is that even if you play ugly but manage to win, it's still worth two points. And who knows how important yesterday's two points might be to Newcastle at the end of the regular season.
Asked for his assessment of the game, Parramatta's coach Steve Kearney rolled his eyes and said: ''I don't think Wayne [Bennett] would be real happy, but he would be happier than me. It wasn't real pretty.'' Told of Kearney's comments, Knights coach Bennett laughed and said: ''I thought we were outstanding.''
This one was from the bottom drawer. There were too many mistakes and the football was of a genuinely low standard. It was particularly disappointing for Parramatta, who thought they had turned the corner with their 29-20 win over Manly last weekend. They had lost four straight before that, and now they have gone straight back to their losing ways.
''That last 20 minutes we had plenty of ball and we didn't do anything with it,'' Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh said. ''The frustrating thing is we went so far backwards from what we did the week before against Manly. We played some lethargic footy, bar a couple of players.''
Kearney added: ''I thought we gave ourselves enough opportunities in the second half. Spent a fair time on their try line, but couldn't come up with the killer blow. It's very frustrating. I think, if you look on the stat sheets and what have you, we got the upper hand in all departments but didn't come up with points, didn't look like coming up with points.
''I don't mind getting beaten, but I don't like us beating ourselves, which I thought we did today.''
Bennett said Newcastle's defence on their own line was the difference between them winning and losing.
''That was great, saved the day for us,'' he said. ''The rest, you can just put a blank. We started well. First 20 minutes I thought we were really good, but from that moment on it was a totally different football team.''
Bennett offered Eels prop Fuifui Moimoi advice about his desire to run the football at Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen, saying: ''Should have got the message when he got tackled the fifth or sixth time, that he wasn't going to run over him. It was great defence. Jarrod wanted the opportunity to tackle him, he was confident he could do that.''
''He [Moimoi] was playing on the edge last week,'' Mullen said. ''Stoney [Knights assistant coach Rick Stone] challenged me as to whether I wanted to stay there or go out to the centres. I said I want to stay there. I'm happy I got the job done.''
Junior Sa'u got the ball rolling for Newcastle when he slipped a great, one-handed pass in a tackle to winger Akuila Uate for a sixth-minute try.
''There was a lot of criticism about [Sa'u] before I came here, and a lot of guys trying to convince me I shouldn't keep him,'' Bennett said. ''But all the things people said about him, I haven't found. He got himself down to about 97 kilos, and his defence is getting better every week. You like those stories, because it's a guy who has an eye for improving himself.''
Both teams would like to move on from yesterday, but only the Knights appear capable of moving on to something meaningful, such as the finals. The Eels will do well to avoid finishing the season where they sit now: last.
NEWCASTLE 14 (A Uate 2 tries; T Roberts 3 goals) bt PARRAMATTA 6 (T Mannah try; C Sandow goal) at Hunter Stadium. Referees: Tony Archer, Tony De Las Heras. Crowd: 24,518.