Parramatta coach Brad Arthur defiantly declared his side’s NRL season was not over despite a 42-12 thumping at the hands of Newcastle at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.
Needing wins in their final two games to guarantee a place in the top eight, the Eels led 12-8 at halftime but were blown away in the second half by the 14th placed Knights.
Newcastle took the lead in the 50th minute when five-eighth Jarrod Mullen went through some flimsy defence to run 20 metres to score.
It sparked a five-try blitz from the hosts in the space of 16 minutes as they added Parramatta to their list of recent victims at home which already included the Warriors, Melbourne and Sydney Roosters.
Winger Chanel Mata’utia grabbed a hat-trick, first scoring in the 53rd and 59th minutes before Beau Scott and Joey Leilua exposed woeful Eels defence in front of a crowd of 18,558.
Mata’utia then showed great agility in the 79th minute to bring down a bouncing ball just inside the deadball line to seal his treble.
The loss leaves Parramatta needing to beat Canberra on the road next Saturday and require other results to go their way if they are to make the finals.
Newcastle had the advantage of a strong breeze in the second half but Arthur said his side lacked intent throughout and paid the price.
The ninth-placed Eels will be 10th on 28 points after this weekend if the Warriors beat the Titans on Sunday.
The Broncos and the Cowboys, who host the Sharks on Monday night, are also on 28 points but Parramatta have the worst for-and-against of the group by a fair margin.
Arthur was confident they could bounce back in Canberra and give themselves a chance of making the play-offs.
“I don’t think I’m going to have to do much this week,” he said.
“The boys’ pride is hurting and they realise it was a lost opportunity.
“We don’t want to finish the season with a performance like that.
“Our season’s not over.”
Knights captain Kurt Gidley said it was enjoyable to watch everything go right for his side after a season of setbacks and distractions.
“We haven’t had too many of those days,” Gidley said.
“We’ve been on the other side of it a few times.
“I thought we were under the pump a bit in the first 20 minutes, they were coming at us hard and fast.
“But we were prepared to roll up our sleeves and work really hard into the wind.”
Parramatta forward Ben Smith was put on report in the 78th minute for a crusher tackle on Chanel Mata’utia.