Three tries to Malakai Watene-Zelezniak has given Penrith a 28-16 win over the Knights in the Intrust Super Premiership at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
MWZ was the star in the win, but the Panthers were impressive across the park in a composed, all-round performance.
They started the game by attacking from the kick-off, spreading the ball wide and taking off downfield. After earning a repeat set from a knock-on close to the Knights’ line, it wasn’t long until Malakai Watene-Zelezniak slid over in the corner. The conversion attempt from Josh Hall was off the mark but the Panthers led 4-0 after just four minutes.
A sublime cut-out pass from Zach Dockar-Clay put Josh Hall in space but the Knights were able to intercept Hall’s next pass.
Penrith hit Newcastle with a number of high balls in the opening quarter of the game but the Knights back three were up to the task, with Bryce Donovan taking some impressive catches.
Playing at fullback, Sam Clune found a gap in the 18th minute and he took it to his opposite number before passing to Zach Dockar-Clay who crossed for an easy try under the posts. Hall was on target to make it a 10-0 lead.
Newcastle posted their first points in the 22nd minute with a try to back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful from Bryce Donovan.
A brilliant ball had the Knights in for their second as Dean Kouka-Smith sliced through the Panthers’ defence virtually untouched. Scores were locked at 10-all in the 32nd minute when Donovan converted with ease.
The tied scores didn’t last long with Malakai Watene-Zelezniak showing his pace to chase a grubber kick and dive on the ball before it rolled dead. MWZ’s flashy try was converted by Hall to put the Panthers in front 16-10.
Half Time: Panthers 16 - Knights 10
Newcastle were the first to strike in the second half with Fullback Bryce Donovan finding his way over under the posts in the 46th minute after some wild lead-up play. He backed up the four-pointer by converting to level the scores at 16-16.
Penrith were forced to put a ball dead in the 54th minute when Knights’ halfback Jack Kelly rolled a dangerous kick into the in-goal but they survived the resulting pressure to get themselves out of trouble.
A penalty provided them with crucial field position and they were able to grab a goal-line dropout of their own when they stalled Newcastle in their own end.
Watene-Zelezniak fended off the Knights’ defence to bring up his hat-trick in the 59th minute when he planted the ball down just inside the sideline. Hall made it a six-pointer when he converted.
The good form continued just two minute later when Tyrone Peachey found his way onto a pass and scored under the sticks. Hall enjoyed the relaxed kick and the Panthers led 28-16 after 63 minutes.
The last 20 minutes of the game saw some end-to-end play but both sides couldn’t make the most of their opportunities. The warm-Autumn weather seemed to bring some fatigue and plenty of errors unfolded.
After 80 minutes of football, the Panthers were the resounding winners finishing the game 28-16 to record their third win of the season.
Full Time: Panthers 28 defeated the Knights 16