Monday 21 August 2017 / 04:35 PM

NRL FRIDAY: EELS BLOW IT, BRONCOS PUT ON A SHOW

KNIGHTS 29 d. EELS 10 @ ANZ Stadium

Previously in-form Parramatta bottled a gilt-edged opportunity to grab a spot in the top four when they were thoroughly outplayed by resurgent cellar-dwellers Newcastle on Friday night.

THE MATCH: Buoyed by two straight wins, the Knights got off to a flying start with Ken Sio blazing over out wide after five minutes and Mitch Barnett finishing off a long break by young five-eighth Brock Lamb in their ensuing set.

Normal transmission seemed set to resume, however, as Michael Jennings scored a sizzling 60-metre try and Will Smith dotted down from a bomb to peg the Eels back to 12-10 in arrears by halftime.

But the blue-and-golds – riding high on a six-match winning streak – could not put it together after the break.

Smith’s sin-binning for a professional foul on the Parramatta goal-line allowed Lamb to take control, first putting Lachlan Fitzgibbon over then stepping his way through for his own try for a 24-10 lead at the hour mark.

The Eels’ attacking chances repeatedly came undone through impatience and poor execution, and the Knights put the game out of reach with 14 minutes left when Sio produced a superb finish from a dazzling set play to bag a double.

Lamb iced the result – and a magnificent individual display – with a field goal in the dying seconds.

THE MAN: Brock Lamb was a popular whipping boy after his horror finish effectively handing the Bulldogs victory a few weeks back, but the 20-year-old pivot proved has proved his mettle since and was sensational against the Eels. Laying on two tries, scoring one himself and kicking astutely throughout, Lamb is putting his hand up for a starting spot regardless of who joins the club over the summer.

Stand-in fullback Dane Gagai was only just shaded for best-on-ground honours, producing three brilliant final passes for tries, a line-break and 224 running metres.

THE MOMENT: The Knights made the most of Smith’s 10 minutes in the naughty chair, turning their tenuous two-point advantage into a commanding 14-point lead. The Eels never looked like being able to rebuff the underdogs while a man short.

Newcastle Knights 29 (Ken Sio 2, Mitch Barnett, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Brock Lamb tries; Trent Hodkinson 4 goals; Lamb field goal) defeated Parramatta Eels 10 (Michael Jennings, Will Smith tries; Mitchell Moses goal). 

BRONCOS 32 d. SHARKS 10 @ Suncorp Stadium

Brisbane took possession of second spot on the ladder and reduced 300-gamer Paul Gallen to a sidelight with a dominant five-tries-to-two win over Cronulla at Suncorp Stadium.

THE MATCH: Fresh from their rollicking 54-0 rout of the Titans six days earlier, the Broncos were quick out of the gates with Matt Gillett powering through dismal defence in just the fifth minute.

After holding on for the next half-hour, the Sharks’ left-side defence was exposed again with Darius Boyd weaving his way through. The defending premiers posted a much-needed try in the shadows of halftime through evergreen Luke Lewis, but that is as close as they came to the on-fire hosts.

Reborn centre giant Tautau Moga’s breakout season continued with a barnstorming double, swatting off defenders to score in the 43rd and 60th minutes, before Anthony Milford sent Corey Oates over for a 30-6 lead.

Gerard Beale grabbed a consolation effort for the Sharks with nine minutes left after a Broncos error, but the late try could not disguise a second straight flat and disjointed performance from the ailing champs.

James Maloney’s return was predicted to spark the Sharks into action, but the NSW Origin five-eighth endured a forgettable night with 10 missed tackles, two error and three penalties conceded.

THE MAN: Tautau Moga is shaping as one of the real X-factors of the upcoming finals series. His electrifying brace of tries aside – which took his season tally to eight – the 107kg powerhouse ran for 200 metres and constantly threatened the Sharks’ defensive line. Moga leads all centres in the NRL with 148.4 running metres per game (Konrad Hurrell is second with 140) and is sixth in the premiership for total running metres. There will be few No.3 or 4s that will be looking forward to lining up against the Samoan international.

THE MOMENT: From the moment Matt Gillett stormed through for the opening try it was apparent the Sharks hadn’t turned up to play. They treaded water for the majority of the first half and were flattered by the 14-6 scoreline at the break, before being blown away in the second stanza.

Brisbane Broncos 32 (Tautau Moga 2, Matt Gillett, Darius Boyd, Corey Oates tries; Anthony Milford 6 goals) defeat Cronulla Sharks 10 (Luke Lewis, Gerard Beale tries; James Maloney goal).

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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