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Moment of Gutherson magic nails Knights and sends Eels to NRL’s top

So Gutherson tapped the ball, pinned the ears back, drew Kalyn Ponga and put Maika Sivo in for the match-winning try.

The Eels captain was pumped, as he should have been. It was quick-thinking, clever rugby league which stole the visitors the match.

But maybe Gutherson was pumped because the Eels had no right to win this clash. Parramatta made 13 errors, many in their own half. That gave the Knights prime field position for the majority of proceedings, and while David Klemmer was a goliath through the middle third – amassing 167 metres and three offloads – Newcastle could not capitalise on front foot ball.

Clint Gutherson was quiet, until the moment that mattered most.

Clint Gutherson was quiet, until the moment that mattered most.Credit:Getty

The Knights’ playmaking trio – Pearce, Ponga and Kurt Mann – set up four prime try-scoring chances in the first 40 but, through poor hands or wayward passing, Newcastle stumbled repeatedly at the final hurdle.

It took a trademark Andrew McCullough goal-line burrow to produce the home side’s first points, after 35 frustrating minutes for Knights fans.

Before then, it was left to Parramatta. They looked just as threatening as the home side with ball in hand but struggled to dominate territory due to an abhorrent error count.

Their only first-half try was scored by Ryan Matterson but it was the lovely hands in the lead-up from Reed Mahoney which orchestrated the four points.

Mahoney was the Eels’ best. He makes a case for a Queensland Origin debut every time he straps his white headgear on. But on Sunday, his play from dummy half was the difference.

His passing game offers the Eels width and when given a chance, the 22-year-old is surprisingly quick. He can ping through gaps only half there and is smart enough to know when to go. Nathan Brown was at his tough, metre-eating best, too.

Parramatta certainly missed Mitchell Moses. Jai Field did very little with ball and Gutherson was unusually quiet until his match-winning moment. But the real star of the Eels’ show was their defence.

That’s the sign of true premiership contenders. There was plenty wrong with this Parramatta performance, but they tackled as though their lives depended on it and Gutherson took care of the rest.

Post match, Eels rookie Stefano Utoikamanu was caught hugging family and friends after making his debut in the 80th minute.

The NRL were made aware of the incident and will now talk to their biosecurity expert before deciding on the best course of action.

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While players are now able to visit family and friends, the NRL sent an edict to clubs last week to try and limit “unneccessary visits” due to the spike of cases in Victoria.

The family and friends Utoikamanu came into close contact with may now be forced to undergo COVID-19 tests and the rookie forward could be withdrawn from Parramatta’s squad.

“I don’t make the rules. We will just have to see what happens there,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said. “I think the club has talked to him about it. It’s just a reaction. He’s excited after making his debut. I’m not going to hold it against him.”

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