Parramatta returned to the summit of the NRL ladder after 25 hours in second place, scraping out a 10-4 win over Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium today.
The entire game was very much a war of attrition, and it took a good 17 minutes before the scoreboard attendant had cause to wake up, Ryan Matterson scoring after the Eels had been awarded the first set restart of the afternoon. Hooker Reed Mahoney coasted his way across the defensive line before putting Matterson into a hole in the Knights' defence.
A missed Clint Gutherson conversion left Parramatta with a 4-0 lead which wasn't challenged til the 35th minutes when Andrew McCullough scurried across for what would be his team's only points of the afternoon. A minute earlier, Kalyn Ponga had been hammered off-the-ball in a late Waqa Blake tackle, which delivered the home team a penalty and repeat footy. That was what the Knights needed and the sides went to the break at level pegging.
Similar to the first half, neither side troubled the scoresheet for the first 15-20 minutes of the second half. With rain on the radar fast approaching, the defensive mindset amped up even more and neither side did much to look like scoring.
Come the 60th minute, Mahoney looked to have given the Eels the lead when he went over from dummy-half, but the play-the-ball infringement by David Klemmer in that play was the prior offence and created the space for Mahoney, so a penalty was awarded instead. Gutherson duly obliged and Parramatta led by two.
Four minutes later Shaun Lane snapped up a loose ball on the line and looked to have extended the blue-and-gold's advantage, but the Bunker reviewed the call and sent it back no try with Lane having made a handling error in the pick-up.
The visitors didn't need to wait long to make amends though, with a penalty 40m out for a high tackle seeing Gutherson take a quick tap, tearing apart a disorganised Knights defensive line (many of whom were complaining to referee Gerard Sutton) and finding Maika Sivo on the wing to cross and put the Eels six points clear into the final 12 minutes of the contest.
Newcastle threw plenty at the ladder leaders in the final ten minutes, and looked like they'd be levelling the scores when Tex Hoy chased through a perfect Ponga grubber, but the young back was offside at the kick and the home fans were left disappointed.
Parramatta will finish Round 9 on top of the table following the win, and will take their continued winning form into next Saturday's clash with Manly at Brookvale. Newcastle are away to the Rabbitohs at Bankwest on the same evening.