A runaway try in the closing minutes sealed a 28-22 victory for Newcastle over the NYC Panthers at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
The defeat ends the unbeaten run of the Panthers at nine games - but they almost snatched a draw despite having Jarome Luai sin-binned in the second half.
The Panthers started brightly and were on the scoreboard early as skipper Wayde Egan kept up his try-scoring exploits from the week previous, gathering a Liam Martin offload and forcing his way over from short range. Dean Blore knocked over the conversion to give the Panthers a 6-0 lead inside the opening five minutes.
The Knights hit back on their first foray forward in the 14th minute when hooker Nash Birch burrowed his way over next to the posts, allowing Kainoa Gudgeon to slot the easy conversion and level the scores at 6-6.
The visitors reclaimed the lead in the 20th minute with Egan turning to provider as his cut-out pass found Brian Too to dive over in the corner. Blore’s conversion from the sideline sailed wide to keep the score at 10-6.
From there, the home side dominated territory and possession and despite some determined defence from the Panthers, the Knights broke through in the 36th minute when Hayden Loughrey sliced through to the line to score. Gudgeon slotted the conversion to give his side a 12-10 lead.
HALF-TIME: Newcastle Knights 12 – 10 Penrith Panthers
The Knights continued their spell of dominance after the break and scored four minutes in to the half when Gudgeon leapt to plant the ball down in the corner. His conversion sailed wide, keeping the score at 16-10.
Their lead doubled in the 55th minute when Mitch Andrews was unmarked in the corner to receive a cut-out pass and stroll over, before Gudgeon nailed the sideline conversion.
The visitor’s task was made even tougher on the hour mark when Jarome Luai was sent to the sin-bin for a professional foul following a Knights breakaway. Gudgeon’s resulting penalty attempt would sail wide.
The Panthers weren’t giving up without a fight and they found a response through the familiar figure of Egan in the 63rd minute. The skipper once again managed to wrestle his way over to the try line, before Blore’s conversion brought their side back to within a converted try.
Luai returned to the field with ten minutes left in the game and was the catalyst for the Panthers to level the scores. A one-two between Blore and Egan had the Knights defence rattled before Luai took advantage of some scrambling defence to take the line on and score in the 72nd minute. Blore’s conversion would bring his side level at 22-all.
However, a line break from Loughrey allowed Matt Cooper to score in the 78th minute and seal a 28-22 victory for the home side and snap the Panthers undefeated streak.
FULL-TIME: Newcastle Knights 28 – 22 Penrith Panthers