A returning Mitchell Pearce has piloted Newcastle to a scrappy yet thrilling 18-16 NRL win over an error-plagued Parramatta at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday.
Eels star Jarryd Hayne was close to best on ground, setting up two of the Eels’ three tries but it was Pearce who proved the difference.
The Knights skipper’s deft kicking game has been sorely missed during his absence due to a pectoral injury and he controlled the tempo as Nathan Brown’s men snapped a three-game losing streak.
The Eels were at times woeful, repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot, and at other times brilliant with the ball in hand.
In a thrilling finish, Bevan French was denied the match-winner with 34 seconds remaining when he was ruled to have put a foot on the touch line chasing down a Corey Norman grubber kick.
When Jarryd Hayne drifted across field to find a flying Bevan French who chipped for Mitchell Moses, the Eels were up 10-0 after 10 minutes.
However they quickly slipped into old habits and by halftime had racked up eight errors with their first half summed up when Cameron King punched himself in the face and Clint Gutherson missed a conversion from in front.
Pearce kick-started the home side’s fightback when he grubbered behind the line and Connor Watson dislodged the ball from Clint Gutherson.
Daniel Saifiti, returning from a foot injury, was immense, coming up with a series of bone-rattling tackles and popping an offload in traffic for Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s try that levelled things up.
And when Brad Takairangi came flying out of the line, he opened up a giant hole for Pearce to run in under the posts and give the Knights the lead for the first time at 16-10.
The Eels got back on level pegging when Hayne busted through three tackles and turned it inside for Corey Norman, who ran 60 metres to score.
A Ken Sio penalty goal gave the Knights back the lead at 18-16, which they never surrendered.