“But in saying that it’s also good for us to hang in there and fight, stay calm and composed and play to the 80th minute.”
Arthur would have felt uneasy for most of the afternoon as the Knights launched a second-half rally at the tiny regional Queensland ground, hemmed in by a leagues club and boasting goalposts with a flag on top of one upright and not the other.
There could be a sour postscript for the Knights, too, after Frizell was rattled attempting an early tackle on the returning Reagan Campbell-Gillard. He seemed unsteady on his feet – usually grounds for immediate removal from the rest of the game – but was allowed to continue for several tackles.
He was eventually taken from the field, but surprisingly returned 15 minutes later after sideline officials were told he had passed his concussion test. The NRL is expected to review the incident on Monday. Teammate Jacob Saifiti even pointed to Frizell to get referee Ashley Klein’s attention after the initial incident.
“I think he passed the on-field [assessment] and then the docs viewed that on the sideline and got him off,” Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien said. “He just addressed the group then and was excellent.
“I’ve got a shattered dressing room. They fought so hard and I’m really proud of them. We’d like to have the five minutes before half-time back again. We switched off mentally and it cost us a couple of tries.”
Frizell later copped another couple of bruising hits – including a tackle from Campbell-Gillard – before being replaced with eight minutes left.
Newcastle are still searching for their first finals win since 2013 despite winger Enari Tuala’s hat-trick, the first play-off treble by a Knight.
The finals have been a nightmare for the Eels in recent years, and Gutherson heaved the opening kick-off out on the full allowing Tuala to score even before the blue and golds had touched the ball.
But the most maligned man on their roster, State of Origin half Mitchell Moses, burst to life in the final five minutes of the opening stanza to hand Arthur’s side the half-time lead.
Moses scored a scintillating 40-metre solo try, piercing tiring Newcastle defence and swerving around Kalyn Ponga before Blake Ferguson dived over on the next set after rookie Will Penisini’s sublime flick pass.
The Eels looked in complete control when Ferguson touched down for his double early in the second half, only for Jake Clifford and Ponga to set up two Tuala tries within just four minutes.
But Tuala’s last contribution was season-ending, ruled to have impeded Penisini as he tried to scoop up the ball in sight of the try-line.
PARRAMATTA EELS 28 (Blake Ferguson 2, Waqa Blake, Mitchell Moses, Will Penisini tries; Moses 4 goals) defeated NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS 20 (Enari Tuala 3, Hymel Hunt tries; Jake Clifford 2 goals) at Browne Park, Rockhampton. Referee: Ashley Klein.
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