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Eels able to outlast determined Knights

Parramatta took home their 14th UNE SG Ball Cup with a sterling second half to keep a determined Newcastle at bay 28-22 in their Under-19s Grand Final at Leichhardt Oval at today.

The club which has the most successful history in SG Ball competition gave another glimpse of how that’s happened by keeping a couple of steps ahead of the opposition throughout.

In the five tries-to-four victory, the Eels never surrendered the lead.

“We were fortunate – it was a real arm wrestle,” Eels coach Stephen O’Dea said, reflecting on a half-time score of 12-12.

“We asked the boys to dig deep in that second half and they did.

“I’ve got to give credit to the Knights – they were worthy opposition. We’ve always had a healthy respect for them so we’re very, very happy to get the win.”

Player of the Match was halfback Ethan Sanders, who scored a try and landed four conversions – two from the sideline.

“Ethan was great but I want to single out the boys who didn’t play,” O’Dea said.

“We’ve got a squad of 28 and every one of the boys turned up to training with commitment and effort.”

Parramatta half Ethan Sanders
Parramatta half Ethan Sanders

The Eels had some well-known surnames in their line-up today – hooker Matthew Arthur is NRL coach Brad Arthur’s son and centre Richard Penisini, who scored his team’s fourth try, is Will Penisini’s younger brother.

“It’s a family club and that’s what we want to always be. Nice to see all the boys get to move through the grades on their journeys,” O’Dea said.

Newcastle finished the regular season in third position and had been undefeated since Round Three in mid-February.

“I’m more disappointed for the boys because of their efforts all season,” said coach Matt Nicoll.

“It wasn’t our most complete game – we could have defended errors better and played through the middle more - but at least they put themselves in a position to win.

“Parra deserved their win today, but we’ll be back next year.”

The Eels began strongly jumping out to a 12-0 lead after 12 minutes through tries to Sanders and winger Devonte Vaivela.

Sanders’ four-pointer was masterful to watch with backrower Charlie Guymer making the initial break. Then Sanders puts Domenico De Stradis through a nice hole before backing up to receive the ball from his second rower.

Parramatta seemed in cruise control but then the pendulum swung.

The Knights had one try denied – Kyle McCarthy’s arm brushed the touchline – and two players in Tamakaimoana Whareaorere and Ethan Ferguson were held up over the line.

The Eels defence was stoic repelling three sets but then then interchange forward Beau Slade burrowed deep to score, before Ferguson crossed off a deflected kick six minutes later.

Ferguson’s conversion from the sideline was met with a loud roar from the grandstand as the Knights headed to the sheds on level terms.

In the second half, Parramatta jumped ahead (22-12) through tries by second rower Charlie Guymer and Penisini.

The Knights clawed back to within four points with a try to utility Mayson Metcalf (22-18) and again though half Taj Blackman (28-22).

But it was the Eels fifth try in between – giving Vaivela his double – that proved the difference.

Scores: Parramatta Eels 28 (Devonte Vaivela 2, Ethan Sanders, Richard Penisini, Charlie Guymer tries; Sanders 4 goals) def Newcastle Knights 22 (Beau Slade, Ethan Ferguson, Mayson Metcalf, Taj Blackman tries; Ferguson 3 goals)

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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