Newcastle star Darius Boyd edged out opposite number Jarryd Hayne in an epic battle of the fullbacks as the Knights ended Parramatta’s unbeaten run at Pirtek Stadium with a thrilling 16-10 victory on Sunday.
Amid reports he wasn’t being paid a significant third-party deal by the embattled Knights, Boyd was the poster boy of the club’s early-season struggles and was criticised for a series of lacklustre performances.
However, the State of Origin period and the stabilising of the Knights’ ownership problems appears to have coincided with an emphatic return to form for the Queenslander.
Eels superstar Hayne has been labelled the best player in the world after his heroics for NSW, but Boyd’s performance on Sunday was one of the most dominant by a fullback this year.
“I reckon he’s probably had his three best games over the past few years over the past three weeks,” praised Knights captain Kurt Gidley post-match.
Boyd set up the win with a first-half try assist and length-of-the-field try before pulling off a try-saving tackle on a rampaging Pauli Pauli in the final minutes to secure the Knights’ first back-to-back win of the year.
Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett said it was a simple matter of Boyd getting back to what he does best.
“He’s just back to enjoying his football again,” said Bennett.
“He’s enjoying the way the other guys are playing as well. He’s such a professional … sometimes when we’re not playing well he goes out the backdoor with them. But we’ve picked up our act.”
The Knights win wasn’t without drama.
Parramatta received the benefit of the doubt from a controversial video referee decision to award a try to Semi Radradra with 11 minutes on the clock, bringing them within a converted try.
Video referee Steve Clark ruled that Eels player Kenny Edwards hadn’t held Knights centre Dane Gagai back from the play, but rather they were both equally culpable for holding each other’s jumpers.
The Knights were far from impressed as the Eels got within a converted try and a crowd of 15,566 got behind them.
“So Dane held himself back? It was a professional foul,” Gidley said on-field to referee Jared Maxwell.
Post-match Bennett described the justification as “ridiculous”.
The Knights leap-frogged Cronulla out of last place and in the process put a significant dent in the Eels’ finals hopes.
Despite the overall dominance of Hayne at the back and their exuberant start to the season, Parramatta have now slipped to consecutive losses and sit precariously in tenth place.
Coach Brad Arthur was disappointed with his team’s failure to take advantage of numerous attacking opportunities and their poor last-tackle options.
After collecting the past two wooden spoons, the Eels have come along way, but Hayne says his team aren’t satisfied with coming close.
“Last year we probably would have sat there thinking, ‘oh well, we went pretty good’ … but today we were filthy,” said Hayne, who was dominant for the Eels – a scintillating 90-metre individual try the highlight.
“We felt we lost the game.
“We’re miles in front (of expectations) … but we’re not satisfied.”