Newcastle Knights 4-10 Parramatta Eels: Parra edge tight encounter to remain top 
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12: Clint Gutherson of the Eels is tackled during the round nine NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Parramatta Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium on July 12, 2020 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The Parramatta Eels fast start to the NRL campaign continued as a strong defensive effort helped them to see off the Newcastle Knights on Sunday evening.

Maika Sivo's try 12 minutes from time proved to be the difference for the Eels, who make it eight wins from nine as they continue to make their claim as a title favourite.

Story of the match

The Newcastle Knights enjoyed more of the footy in the early exchanges, but it was the league-leading visitors who took the lead in the 18th minute when Ryan Matterson crashed over after some great work by Mahoney, who found Reed Mahoney on the spin. The Eels hooker fed the ball to Matterson who powered over. Clint Gutherson sliced a relatively routine conversion as the score line read 4-0.

That opener handed the initiative to the Eels as the momentum of the game started to even out, but the Knights got themselves back on level terms shortly before half time. Andrew McCullough showed great strength to burrow over from close range, somehow twisting his body to get the ball down when he looked certain to be held up. Kalyn Ponga – who had taken a huge late shot from Waqa Blake just a couple of minutes earlier – hit the post with another fairly routine conversion. 4-4 as the sides made their way to the sheds.

The second half began as the first had ended. The Knights dominated the ball but that Parra defence – the sternest in the competition heading into Round Nine – withstood the pressure from the Knights as the crowd at the McDonald Jones Stadium began to grow frustrated.

There was a tough call for the Eels to stomach in the 60th minute when Mahoney crashed over from the play the ball to get what looked like a legitimate try. However, the referee had already blown for a penalty for the Eels for obstruction at the play the ball. The league leaders opted for the two from bang in front and Gutherson made no mistake this time. The Eels opened up a two-point lead with 20 minutes left on the clock.

Again, the Eels thought they had grabbed their second try of the game five minutes later when Sean Lane got over to touch down. But despite being sent up as a try, the Bunker ruled it out after spotting a knock-on from the Eels second-rower.

The Eels finally got the score that their pressure deserved in the 67th minute, albeit it in bizarre circumstances. The referee awarded the visitors a penalty after a high shot on the fifth. Whilst the Knights stood and complain Gutherson took advantage. The Parra fullback with the quick tap and go, breaking down the left-hand side and drawing in Ponga before finding Maika Sivo to get over for the score. Gutherson couldn’t add the extras as it remained a one-score ball game.

There was late heartbreak for Tex Hoy, who thought he had got the levelling score three minutes from time when he showed electric pace to get on the end of Ponga's grubber. Despite being sent up as a try, the Bunker ruled it out for offside, with the youngster a clear yard or two in front of the kicker as the Eels held on for the two points.

What's next for both sides?

The Newcastle Knights will be back on the road in Round 10, as they travel to Sydney to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The Eels road trip continues when they travel to Manly to face the depleted Sea Eagles next Saturday.