The NYC Panthers have missed a golden opportunity to lock up the minor premiership after suffering a 32-24 defeat to Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Five minutes in and Panthers centre Braidon Burns lost possession over the line when seemingly all he needed to do was fall over to score.
Instead it was the Knights who opened the scoring in the 10th minute as fullback Nick Meaney burst down the short side to dive over. Braden Robson’s attempted conversion sailed wide but Newcastle led 4-0.
There was a slice of fortune in Newcastle’s next try as Kainoa Gudgeon swooped on a deflected fifth-tackle kick to score in the 16th minute. Robson couldn’t convert so the score remained 8-0.
The Panthers finally got some field position in the 25th minute and struck immediately. An expansive move to the left saw Caleb Aekins claim the ball on the wing and step inside to score. Jarome Luai’s attempted conversion was waved away, leaving the score 8-4.
Panthers winger Christian Crichton levelled the scores in the 29th minute with a typically strong effort close to the line. Luai couldn’t convert from out wide.
With eight minutes left in the half Knights hooker Tom Starling stepped his way through some soft Panthers defence to score from close range. This time Robson was on target to make it 14-8.
The Panthers hit back as the halftime siren sounded with playmaker Dean Blore taking the line on and rolling over in the tackle to ground the ball. Luai couldn’t put his conversion attempt on target.
HALFTIME – Knights 14-12
Robson got Newcastle off to the perfect start in the second stanza with a break to score between the sticks in the 45th minute. He converted his own try for a 20-12 lead.
Heath Gibbs extended Newcastle’s lead in the 53rd minute after being awarded a try despite failing to ground the ball. The conversion made the score 26-12.
Panthers prop Thomson Tuigamala proved too strong close to the line as he charged his way over with 14 minutes left in the contest. Luai finally found a conversion and the game was back on at 26-18.
However the hope of a comeback was quickly extinguished as Newcastle broke down field and from the ensuing play, winger Matthew Soper-Lawler finished off with a try in the corner. Robson nailed the sideline conversion for a 32-18 lead.
The Panthers had the final say in the contest as Crichton touched down for a try in the 78th minute - however it was far too little, far too late.
FULLTIME - Knights 32-24