NEWCASTLE have courageously climbed off the bottom of the NRL ladder – and ended an away-game hoodoo in the process – with a stunning 29-10 boilover against Parramatta at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
The Knights last won on the road in Melbourne on August 24, 2015, and had endured a 23-game losing streak in enemy territory.
Yet they dominated the fifth-placed Eels from the opening exchanges to claim their third successive win and biggest scalp since Nathan Brown was appointed coach at the end of the 2015 season. The upset triumph lifted Newcastle to five wins, equal with Wests Tigers, who host Manly at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
The two teams have equal differentials of minus-181 points, but the Knights – wooden spooners in 2015 and 2016 – have scored more points (370 to 323) and have hence, temporarily at least, climbed above the Tigers.
Newcastle have now beaten St George Illawarra, the Warriors and Eels in successive weeks.
“It’s our first away win in the 18 or 19 months or however long we’ve been going, and we played a team that had won six on the bounce and that a lot of people were talking about winning the grand final,’’ Brown said.
“And I thought we were clearly the better team.”
Brown encountered no arguments from Parramatta coach Brad Arthur, who admitted his team had been “out-enthused” by Newcastle’s giant-killers.
“Maybe we thought we could just come here and get a soft win,’’ Arthur said.
“They just worked harder than us … they came here with a lot more energy than us. They just did everything better.”
Newcastle’s win sets up a blockbuster clash with likely minor premiers Melbourne Storm at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday week.
For the 12th time this season, Newcastle led at half-time, by 12-10, and the margin could possibly have been greater.
Five-eighth Brock Lamb was again the architect of Newcastle’s win, creating two tries, scoring one himself and kicking his career-first field goal to completely overshadow Parramatta’s star halves pairing of Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses.
Former Eels winger Ken Sio opened the scoring against his old club in the sixth minute when quick hands gave him a yard of space on the left edge.
Two minutes later, lock Mitch Barnett scored his third try in two games after combining with Lamb and Dane Gagai.
The Eels hit back with tries by centre Michael Jennings and fullback Will Smith, a former Knights lower-grader.
Smith went from Parramatta hero to villain 14 minutes into the second half when he was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Lamb set up a try for back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon and then scored himself while the Eels were down to 12 men.
Sio’s second try, a spectacular one-handed, diving effort, took the result beyond doubt.
Lamb capped another fine all-round game with 78th-minute field goal.