TEAMS: NSWRL Sydney Shield - 2020 Round 5
17 hours ago | New South Wales Rugby League
Steely Knights back on home turf against the high flying Eels.
Newcastle host Parramatta in a return to home soil for the first time since Round 1. And with last start wins, both coaches will be desperate to solidify their top-four billing.
But in a contrast of styles the comparisons end there.
In a dour contest at Brookvale, the injury plagued Knights overcame the odds to repel a fast finishing Manly a week after raising the white flag in Townsville.
While at Bankwest it was a case of no Moses, no worries as the Eels crashed through the Cowboys' middle before flooding the flanks in a seven try romp.
For Adam O'Brien, this week's test is twofold. Where Manly were one out, the super slick Eels are flush with attacking options, something the Knights must develop if they are to prolong their status among the competition's best.
For the second week running Kalyn Ponga was largely silenced. And until the Knights brains trust work out how to unlock the prized fullback, Newcastle's gutsy resolve will be pushed to the limit.
In Clint Gutherson, Brad Arthur has no such troubles. Gifted with a ticket to roam, the fullback's brilliance manifests itself through an acute sense of timing without forcing his hand.
That said, the comfort for O'Brien is Newcastle's decade long superiority over the Eels. Since 2010, the Novacastrian's have won 11 of 14 including a seven from nine dominance in the Hunter.
But without the injured Edrick Lee and Sione Mata'utia, it'll be up to Tex Hoy and Aidan Guerra to make an impression from the start with Brodie Jones and Starford To'a to contribute off the bench.
For the Eels, lock Nathan Brown is back from suspension forcing Marata Niukore to the interchange. And in what will be David Gower's 100th game for the club, will also double as 20-year old prop Stefano Utoikamanu's NRL debut.
Last meeting: Round 21 2019 - Eels 20 Knights 14
Who to watch: Newcastle's hopes start on the shoulders of Blues bookends David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti. With five consecutive Origin series under his belt, Klemmer is arguably one of the most respected props in the game. And if the Knights are to tame Parramatta's rampant front six, his strength and aggression will need to be at its non-negotiable best.
For the Blue-and-Golds, Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard are yet to shirk a challenge. The classy Eels backline stole the plaudits last week, but it was Paulo's 223 metres that scattered the Cowboys. And with the 140-game mainstay responsible for up to a third of Parramatta's offloads, the Knights could be in for a long evening if he's allowed to cut loose.
The favourite: Even with Newcastle back on home turf, the ladder leading Eels are still narrow favourites.
My tip: With proven defence, Newcastle are a side on the up but in Parramatta we'll find out just how far they've come. With only one loss, the Eels forwards are yet to misfire and their left edge is just as lethal . Look for last week's effort to sap the Knights as the Eels storm home. Eels by 10.
1. Kalyn Ponga 18. Tautau Moga 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Aidan Guerra 13. Herman Ese'ese 2. Tex Hoy 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Pasami Saulo 17. Brodie Jones
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Jai Field 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown 14. David Gower 15. Stefano Utoikamanu 16. Marata Niukore 17. Brad Takairangi
Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Phil Henderson, Tim Alouani-Roby; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;