Gutherson leads scrappy Eels past Knights
Clint Gutherson has steered Parramatta back to the top of the NRL table by setting up the decisive try in a scrappy 10-4 win over Newcastle.
The Eels were leading by two with 15 minutes to go on Sunday evening when Knights skipper Mitchell Pearce was penalised for a high shot on Gutherson.
While Newcastle's players pleaded in protest, Gutherson took the quick tap, broke into the backfield and sent Maika Sivo over for the game-clinching four-pointer.
Gutherson's quick-thinking proved to be the turning point in a contest that failed to live up to the blockbuster billing of a top-four encounter.
"He's matured as a captain and leader of the team," Eels coach Brad Arthur said.
"Because he's so fit and (has) done a really good job on himself physically he's never stressed, never fatigued.
"He's got a real clarity about all the decisions he makes, and he makes good decisions all the time because he's physically able to do that."
Knights fans thought the game was headed for golden point when utility Tex Hoy pounced on a Kalyn Ponga grubber in the 77th minute.
But the bunker ruled Hoy was offside and the Eels went on to register their eighth win from their opening nine games and reclaim pole position.
The loss has resulted in Newcastle dropping to fifth spot.
There was some drama post-game when Eels debutant Stefano Utoikamanu was seen hugging friends and family over the fence at McDonald Jones Stadium in potential breach of the competition's biosecurity rules.
The NRL is looking into the incident.
"As always we will be guided by the advice of our medical experts," NRL head of football Graham Annesley said.
"We will then be in a position to advise the club and the player of any further action or protocol implications."
The match offered a supreme opportunity for the Knights to flash their premiership credentials against an Eels side without injured star Mitchell Moses.
Adam O'Brien's side had almost double Parramatta's 21 plays inside the opposition 20-metre zone, but could only muster one try.
Pearce and Ponga were held in check by a committed Eels defence, which included Gutherson trysavers in either half.
"We showed some toughness as a group defensively," O'Brien said.
"I wasn't happy with the attack but we keep banging on about defence to them so it was going to come back and get me at some stage."
Playing their first game back at their spiritual home since round one, Knights centre Tautau Moga should have bagged the game's first points but lost the ball over the line.
Instead it was the Eels who opened the scoring when Ryan Matterson made the most of a Junior Paulo offload in the 17th minute.
However Newcastle hooker Andrew McCullough ensured the teams were locked at halftime when he burrowed over from close range in the 35th minute.
A Gutherson penalty goal in the 59th minute was the only difference until the Eels fullback came up with the game-winning play soon after.
Eels centre Waqa Blake was put on report for a high shot on Ponga in the first half, one of a handful of heavy collisions between the pair.
© AAP 2020