Despite the best efforts of Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Peta Hiku, the Panthers fell to a 26-20 defeat against the Knights at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Saturday.
An uncoordinated attacking performance ultimately proved to be their undoing, despite fielding a strong line up with plenty of NRL experience.
The Knights started brightly and managed to open the scoring in the 7th minute through Jacob Gagan. A pin-point cut out pass found the flying winger in space to stroll over in the corner to give the Knights an early 4-0 lead.
Their lead would only last five minutes when Darren Nicholls put Kaide Ellis through to level things up. The playmaker held up a perfectly weighted pass for Ellis to run on to and score. Nicholls couldn’t convert and the score remained 4-all.
The Panthers had the lead midway through the half when Mitch Rein forced his way over from short range. The hooker darted out of dummy half and managed to wrestle his way through three defenders. This time Nicholls had no trouble adding the extras to push the score out to 10-4.
The home side were starting to assert themselves the longer the half wore on and they had their third after half an hour when Nicholls got on the scoresheet. Matt Moylan caught the defence standing still and found Nicholls to charge through under the posts. He would convert his own try to extend the lead to 12 points.
With the Panthers threatening to get out of sight, the Knights had to be next to score and they capitalised on an error from the kick off to bring themselves back in to the contest. A blind side play down the left wing resulted in Gagan running through for his second try. Kainoa Gudgeon slotted the conversion to bring his side back to within one converted try.
After managing to hold the Knights out for consecutive sets on their own line, the Panthers shot themselves in the foot with just seconds remaining to let the Knights level the scores. An error from the restart fell to Tyrone Amey for a simple put down. Gudgeon converted the try as they sides went in to the break locked up at 16-all.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 16 – 16 Newcastle Knights
The Knights built off the momentum they created at the end of the first half and had the lead six minutes after the break. Braden Robson found himself one-on-one close to the line and fended off the tackle to dive over in the corner. Gudgeon nailed the kick from the sideline to make it 22-16.
A penalty right in front of the uprights allowed Gudgeon to extend the Knights’ lead to eight points just shy of the hour.
With the game threatening to get out of reach, the Panthers were desperately throwing everything at the Knights line and finally found a way through with ten minutes left thanks to Peta Hiku. The centre caught the defence napping on the line and burrowed over to score. Nicholls’ conversion hit the upright and the score remained 24-20.
Another Gudgeon penalty goal five minutes from time gave the Knights a six point lead, which they didn’t relinquish, running out 26-20 victors.
FULL-TIME: Newcastle Knights 26 – 20 Penrith Panthers