In a game that showcased the good, the bad and the ugly, the Panthers have come away with a 38-16 win over Newcastle, in what is sure to be one of our hardest fought victories this season.
We had an outstanding opening 20 minutes, followed by an horrifically bad half hour, before we finished with six unanswered tries to win the match. Anthony Cherrington, Waqa Blake, Will Smith and Luke Capewell played brilliantly, and we saw tries from new recruit Ben Murdoch-Masila and Kieran Moss, who has just come back from injury.
It was a match where the penalty count favoured Newcastle, and injuries came thick and fast in the chilly conditions. The Knights were never going to be an easy team to overcome. They are renowned for their relentless attack and they didn’t disappoint tonight. They took a little while to fire up, but when they did they came at us hard.
We opened strongly and our defence was outstanding, keeping the Knights up our end and rarely letting them get the ball past the halfway line. We lost our first player to injury 2 minutes into the match when Isaac John went down in a tackle and had to be carried from the field. Daniel Foster came into replace him from the bench.
Panthers came close to scoring at the 8 minute mark after we were awarded several back to back penalties which gave us repeat sets up near our line, but a misguided pass to winger Eto Nabuli saw the ball go dead and Newcastle took possession.
After a couple of messy plays riddled with dropped balls and mistakes from both side, Newcastle drew first blood in the 15th minute when their big #30 barged his way through our defenders and rolled over to get the ball over the line. The conversion was successful and the Knights took an early 6-0 lead.
5 minutes later we hit back with a try of our own thanks to a beautiful set of passes from the centre of the field over to the right, where Waqa Blake took the ball up the sideline before offloading to Kevin Naiqama on the wing who dived over near the corner post. Will Smith’s kick was waved away so the score went to 6-4, with 20 minutes until half time.
It was about this time that Newcastle really kicked into gear and they started to put Penrith under a huge amount of pressure. We were making ground with our sets but the Knights kept sending the ball back down our end, forcing our defenders to work overtime. We had a very close call with 6 minutes on the clock when a Newcastle player tried to dive over, and had it not been for the quick hands of Kierran Moseley who shoved the ball back, they would have had another try.
In the next play we lost Moseley to an ankle injury and he had to be carried from the field.
In the dying seconds of the half, the Knights were awarded a penalty on their 30m line. They opted to take the kick and sent it straight through the uprights, extending their lead to 8-4 as the siren sounded.
HALFTIME: 8-4 Newcastle
The Knights opened the scoring in the second half in the 44th minute, thanks to some very soft defence from Panthers which let Newcastle’s #27 duck and weave and eventually burrow his way through a pack of Penrith players to get the ball down over the line. The conversion was successful so the home side extended their lead to 14-4.
In the 53rd minute the Knights were awarded yet another penalty and they took the kick for two from in front. This took the score to 16-4.
The next 8 minutes of the game were riddled with mistakes from Penrith but somehow we didn’t let Newcastle get away with too much, and in the 61st minute Ben Murdoch-Masila scored his first try in Panthers colours! After a few loose passes, Ben grabbed the ball right in front of the posts and drove hard, before falling over the line to get the 4 points. Will Smith’s kick went straight through the uprights and the score went to 16-10.
A few minutes later we were over again thanks to a blistering run up the sideline from Waqa Blake! He was handed the ball in some open space on our 40m line and he took off with Will Smith by his side to back him up. Despite coming under some pressure, Blake shrugged off a couple of tackles and went all the way himself. Smith converted to level the score at 16-16, with 16 minutes on the clock.
But we weren’t satisfied with a draw and in the next play the Panthers took the lead for the first time in the game, with a try to Vaipuna Tia Kilifi, who barged his way through Newcastle’s back line and got the ball down. Smith’s kick went straight through the uprights to give Penrith a 22-16 lead.
Would you believe we then ran in our fourth unanswered try in our next set of six?! Will Smith found some space up the centre of the field and took off, before passing to Kieran Moss on his inside, who took the ball up and over the line. The conversion was on target yet again, and the score went to 28-16, with 8 minutes until full time.
Just as the clock hit the 5 minute mark, Waqa Blake went over for his second try of the night! After a short chip kick from Bryce Cartwright went over everyone’s heads and bounced awkwardly in the middle of several Newcastle players, Blake ran onto it and tapped it with his foot before scooping it up and sprinting 20m to score. Smith’s kick was waved away so the score moved to 32-16 with less than 3 minutes left.
The icing on the cake was a Sam Anderson try in the final 2 minutes of the match, in front of his family and friends who were very appreciative in the stands! He got a beautiful ball 10m out from our line and broke through several tackles before diving over to get the ball down next to the uprights. Smith converted as the full time siren sounded, sending the Panthers back to Penrith with the 2 points.
FULL TIME: 38-16 Penrith