Trent Barrrett’s first season as Panthers NYC coach was like a fairytale, without the happy ending. Penrith’s young guns came out firing and had an 18-6 lead at the end of the first half, but they couldn’t keep up with the experienced Newcastle outfit for the second 40 minutes, and went down 34-22 at Sportingbet Stadium.

Some good points from the game – our defence was outstanding in the first half, we made very few mistakes and forced plenty of errors from the Knights. But consistency let us down, and we couldn’t find our feet in the second half.

Here’s how the match played out.

The Panthers got off to a solid start, completing their sets and forcing errors from the Newcastle side. We held strong in defence when the Knights got close to their try line early, and it wasn’t long before we were back up our end, ready to score.

Hooker Josh Tangitau had the ball in front of the goal posts where he passed it wide to the left. It continued through several hands, until a lob pass went right out to the sideline where winger Solofa Silipa was waiting. He side stepped a Knights players and planted the ball across the line. Centre Regan Haika converted the tricky sideline kick and Penrith took a 6-0 lead, 6 minutes in.

The Panthers were looking strong and were now dominating possession. The ball didn’t leave our half for the next 5 minutes, and we made the most of it. After pushing hard against Newcastle’s back line, we finally wore them down and got through under the posts; Lock Sione Katoa created some space and stepped around several players before diving over the line. With the Haika conversion, the home side took a 12-0 lead.

Play continued and the Penrith young guns were holding their own. The Knights came close to scoring on one occasion, but the Panthers’ defence was unbreakable, and they held them out.

With 12 minutes left on the clock, we were over again! Under pressure from the Newcastle centres, our boys did a bit of ball juggling on the 30m line, before getting it away to the towering Chris Smith, who barged his way through a pack of defenders to run over the line for another 4 points. Haika’s kick was good, and the score went to 18-0.

With 7 minutes remaining in the half, the Knights had Penrith under pressure up their end. They had several attempts at their line but our defence was holding, until Newcastle’s fullback burrowed his way through a couple of players and stretched his arm out over the line. The conversion was successful, and the Knights put their first points on the board 18-6.

The home side continued to dominate for the rest of the half, and despite errors from both sides, and fatigue setting in, the Panthers held onto their lead.

HALF TIME: 18-6 PANTHERS

Unfortunately, the second half of this game didn’t go as well for the Panthers as the first half. Although we started strongly once again, it was the Knights who crossed first, thanks to a great ball by their halfback, which put #12 Luke Yates over under the posts, in the 48th minute. The kick was good, and Newcastle narrowed the score to 18-12.

 Several minutes later they backed that up when young Jacob Gagai stormed the ball and crossed near the right sideline post. Again, the conversion made it and the Knights had evened the score.

The Panthers almost added another 6 points to their tally when Sione Katoa went over, but Newcastle challenged the play and won, which saw the decision reversed and the scores remained level. 

Newcastle capitalised on the decision and put Jake Mamo over for another try off the back of a solid set of six, and for the first time in the game, the visitors took the lead 24-18.

A gallant effort by winger Solofa Silipa got the Panthers back on the right foot. He took a brilliant offload pass from Regan Haika and dived over the line. The conversion was waved away though, so Panthers sat two points behind at 24-22, with 19 minutes remaining.

But the Knights were on a roll now and were keen to extend their lead even further. Jake Mamo picked up his third try after getting the ball in his own in-goal, breaking through the Panthers back line and sprinting the length of the field to score unopposed. A successful conversion took the score to 30-22.

Newcastle was then awarded a penalty with 9 minutes remaining, with the kick pushing their lead out to 10.

The Panthers were struggling, making errors and dropping the ball on several occasions. Fullback Brent Naden was sent off for back chatting the ref, which saw the Knights get another penalty, and add another two points to their total

Newcastle slowly wound down the remaining 5 minutes of the game, to walk away with the win. 

FULL TIME: 34-22 KNIGHTS