Digital Image by Brett Crockford © nrlphotos.com :	NRL, Rugby League, Round 2, Melbourne Storm v  Penrith Panthers @ AAMI Park, Melbourne, VIC, Saturday March 15th, 2014.

In one of their toughest contests so far this season, the Panthers have gone down 40-22 to ladder leaders Newcastle. It was a game where the lead changed hands several times and Penrith showcased some brilliant football, taking a 4 point lead into the halftime break, but the Knights had a blinder of a second half and displayed exactly why they are at the top of the table.

Penrith was first to cross the line 7 minutes into the match after some lovely footwork by five-eighth Corey Harawira, who danced and dodged his way around several Knights defenders and ran the ball over the line. He then converted his own try to give the Panthers an early 6-0 lead.

The home side got the opportunity to score off the next set after a dropped ball from the kick off handed them the ball 20m out from their line. But Penrith’s defence held strong and we managed to hold them out for repeat sets of six, before finally forcing an error which saw the ball change hands.

For the next 8 minutes, the ball was sent from one end of the field to the other, with Penrith putting serious pressure on the ladder leaders. It eventually paid off and we had our next try 16 minutes into the match, when fullback Logan Geyer put a grubber kick in from 15m out and gave chase, before breaking through two tackles to get the ball over the line. Harawira converted, extending Penrith’s lead to 12-0.

Newcastle had their first try a few minutes later, when centre Sione Mata’utia caught a quick pass right on the sideline and barged his way through a pack of Panthers defenders to get the ball down. The kick was waved away, so the score went to 12-4, with 20 minutes until half time.

They backed that up with another one after drawing our defenders off the left wing and sending the ball wide to Chance Peni, who sprinted to the line and dived over near the corner post. This time the kick was on target, and the score went to 12-10 with 17 minutes on the clock.

The Knights were on a roll and soon had their third unanswered try, when lock Pride Petterson-Robati barrelled his way through our back line and fell over the line. Panthers challenged the ruling claiming he was held up, but the video ref awarded it. The kick missed so the Knights took the lead 14-12.

With 4 minutes left in the half, the Panthers were in again! Sam Scarlett flicked a beautiful pass to late call up Fairouz Elkander on the 10m, and after a bit of juggling he managed to regather the ball and get it down over the line. Harawira kicked it straight through the uprights, giving Penrith the lead 18-14.


HALF TIME: 18-14 Panthers


Newcastle were first to put points on the board in this half after being awarded a penalty on their goal line 3 minutes in, which gave them a repeat set of six from 10m out. They moved the ball across the field to their left wing where Sione Mata’Utia took the ball over the line. The kick was on target and the Knights took a 20-18 lead.

They had their next try in the next set when Mata’Utia found some space and got a break up the sideline, sprinting 30m before offloading to winger Bryce Donovan who ran the rest of the way. With the conversion, the home side extended their lead to 26-18.

In the 55th minute, Logan Geyer got his second try for Penrith! We drew the Knights defence in and Logan went wide to wait patiently in some open space on the wing, and when the ball was sent his way he plucked it out of the air and planted it firmly on the ground. Harawira missed the conversion, so the scoreboard went to 26-22.

In the 62nd minute the home crowd erupted yet again when Jake Mamo found a hole in our defence and made a break for it, sprinting 30m before offloading to Mata’utia who took it the rest of the way and dived over, only to have the ball bashed out of his hands by Panthers second rower Sione Katoa before he got it down.

It didn’t matter though because they crossed again in the next set through interchange player Marvin Tauhini, and this time it was awarded. The kick from in front was never going to miss, and Newcastle gave themselves a 10 point led with 15 minutes on the clock.

With 8 minutes on the clock the Knights were awarded a penalty on their 10m line and they took the kick for two, extending their lead to 34-22.

A bit of a scuffle broke out in the dying minutes of the game, and a player from each side was sent to the sin bin. Sam Scarlett and Bryce Donovan had to watch the rest of the match from the sidelines.

Then with less than 60 seconds remaining, the Knights put the final nail in the coffin with Marvin Tauhini crossing for a final try, sending Newcastle home with the two points.

FULL TIME: 40-22 Newcastle