Penrith Panthers have extended their lead at the top of the NSW Cup table after surviving a late flurry from Newcastle Knights to win 30-24 at Pepper Stadium on Saturday.
The opening exchanges saw the Knights dominate possession and field position. Strong Panthers defence repelled the Knights on many occasions.
The Panthers were the first to score in the 15th minute. Isaac John put the ball down after a nice piece of play between John, Tupou Sopoaga and Will Smith. The try was converted by Will Smith. Penrith had a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers extended their lead with another try in the 21st minute. Some catch and pass football gave Eddie Aiono space to score from close range in the corner. Smith missed the kick and the Panthers were in front 10-0.
Newcasle struck back with a try in the 25th minute. Chad Redman ran through a gap from dummy half on the 10 metre line and scored under the posts. Kerrod Holland kicked the conversion and Penrith led 10-6.
Newcastle scored again in the 28th minute. Joseph Tapine weaved his way through Panthers defenders to cross over the try line. Holland converted the try and Newcastle took a 12-10 lead.
Penrith made sure they went into half-time in front with a try in the 39th minute. The Panthers spread the ball to the right and Eddie Aiono dived over in the corner. Smith’s conversion was unsuccessful and the score was 14-12.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 14-12
The Panthers returned to the field full of confidence after the break and this translated to the scoreboard. Four minutes into the half Isaac John placed a grubber kick into the in-goal and Will Smith chased it down to score. Adrian Davis converted the try and the Panthers led 20-12.
The Panthers were next on the score sheet in the 59th minute. Chris Smith spun out of a tackle and offloaded to Wellington Albert who scored the try. Davis missed the kick and the Panthers lead was 24-12.
Penrith scored their third try of the half in the 67th minute. Sione Katoa broke through the Newcastle line and flicked the ball to Leilani Latu who dived over next to the posts. Davis kicked the goal and the Panthers led 30-12.
The Knights answered back in the 68th minute as the Panthers were caught on the back foot from a short kick off. Lachlan Fitzgibbon regathered, beating a number of defenders to touch down in the corner. Holland converted the try and cut the Panthers lead 30-18.
Newcastle continued their fightback in the 72nd minute. Danny Levi crossed over the line from close range after the Knights had back to back sets in the Panther 20 metre zone. Holland’s conversion was successful and the Panthers were in from 30-24.
A late flurry from the Knights wasn’t enough with the Panthers holding on to win by six and extend their lead at the top of the ladder.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 30-24