It was the start to the season all Panthers fans had been hoping for. Ivan Cleary’s mountain men have come away with a convincing 30-8 win over Newcastle in their opening match of the year!

A crowd of 11,369 packed Sportingbet Stadium this afternoon to get their first glimpse of our new recruits in the Panthers colours, and to witness all the hard work that goes into a pre-season come to fruition.

Both sides were very evenly matched coming into the game. They had experience mixed with youth and speed, and neither side was will to go down without a fight, which is evident looking at the half time score. The Panthers’ defence was outstanding, and they rarely let Newcastle get past their 20m line. There were flashes of brilliance from both teams, but also plenty of mistakes with dropped balls, knock ons, and a lot of penalties.

It was a Newcastle mistake 15 minutes in that almost handed Penrith the first try, and we all thought Peter Wallace was about to have a fairytale return to the club where he began his career, but a Newcastle challenge saw the refs try ruling overturned. We had the ball within metres of our goal line and had made several attempts to break through the Knights defence. Lewis Brown had the ball and was tackled, but managed to flick the ball to co-captain Wallace who found a gap and ran in to touch the ball down. But the video replay showed Brown had hold of a Newcastle player’s jersey, and it was deemed obstruction.

For the next 20 minutes, most of the game was played in the Panthers’ half, but despite repeated attempts we just couldn’t break through Newcastle’s line.

With 8 minutes until half time, the Knights put the first points on the board, thanks to a beautiful ball from five-eighth Michael Dobson to Beau Scott, who ran through our backline and over the score. The kick was good and the visitors took a 6-0 lead.

For the next six minutes, both sides fought hard for possession and there were multiple turnovers, until the mighty Panthers finally got the breakthrough they’d been waiting for. With 2 minutes on the clock, we had the ball up at our 10m line, and coming under pressure from Newcastle’s defence, Jamie Soward got the ball away to new recruit Elijah Taylor, who stepped around a couple of defenders and ran the ball in for his first try in Panthers colours. Sowie’s kick was on target and the Panthers had levelled the score 6-6.

As the half time siren was sounding, Penrith had the ball but fumbled, and the ref called an offside penalty. The Knights took the kick for two, and made it.

HALF TIME: 8-6 KNIGHTS

The Panthers opened the second half in brilliant style, with a try to Josh Mansour in the first 4 minutes. A Newcastle penalty saw Matt Moylan take a quick tap and play, before the Knights had even made it back to their line. A few quick passes took the ball out to the left wing where Sauce was ready and waiting. He broke through three tackle, and then dragged two Newcastle players 5 metres before falling over the line for the try. Wallace kicked for goal this time and the conversion was good, so the mountain men had taken the lead 12-8.

A few minutes later, Sauce was over again! A few quick passes gave him the ball and he sprinted up the sideline and dived over in the corner, taking out the corner post. The ref sent the decision to the video ref who made sure he had grounded the ball before being tackled out of play, but it was good! Wallace’s kick was good, and Penrith extended their lead to 18-8.

For the next 10 minutes, both teams shared possession and got desperately close to their line, but couldn’t break through. Then, with 17 minutes on the clock, Dean Whare got his hands on the ball on our 30m line, he put in a grubber kick that bounced horribly for the Newcastle defender waiting to catch it, and Whare ran onto it. Adam Docker was there to back him up and was handed the ball on the 10m line, where he ran into the Knights fullback and bounced off him, before stepping over him to get the ball down. The collision left both players a little worse for ware and play was stopped for a couple of minutes. Wallace then took the kick which was on target yet again, and the home side had steamed ahead with a 24-8 lead.

Penrith continued on the attack for the rest of the half, and credit must go to a fierce Newcastle defence who kept us out until the dying minutes, when Wallace put a kick high over our in-goal area. Players from both sides gave chase and just when it looked like the Knights would knock it dead, Penrith’s Jeremy Latimore charged in, grabbed the ball and grounded it within inches of the dead ball line! Wallace converts the try and the Panthers take a 30-8 lead, with just a few minutes remaining.

FULL TIME: 30-8 PANTHERS