The SG Ball Panthers remain undefeated in 2018 after a 24-point haul from five-eighth Matt Burton inspired them to a 32-16 win over Newcastle Knights at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Saturday.
Burton, who hails from Dubbo, was in scintillating form as he bagged four tries and four conversions. Winger Zac Cini and centre Logan Cohen also crossed the line as the Panthers claimed a fifth-consecutive win to continue their perfect start to the season.
The Panthers were forced to defend their line early on but halfback Hayden Bonnano came up with impressive back-to-back defensive efforts to hold the Knights out.
However the home side were unable to deny the Knights a third time when centre Bradman Best broke into open space down the left flank and dived over in the corner in the 6th minute. Madden’s conversion attempt was waved away, with the score remaining 4-0.
The Panthers drew level in the 20th minute after fullback Charlie Staines drifted cross field and linked up with Burton, who spun his way over the try line. Burton couldn’t convert from out wide.
The Knights looked to hit back quickly as Madden poked his nose through Penrith’s defensive line in the 26th minute, however the five-eighth was cut down by a terrific Ethan Clark-Wood try-saver.
Clark-Wood’s defensive efforts proved to be inspirational, with the Panthers marching upfield and hitting the lead as Cini provided the finishing touch to a slick backline movement. Burton’s conversion attempt struck the left upright as the score remained 8-4 after 29 minutes.
After being dominated in the early stages of the game, the Panthers suddenly hit a convincing lead in the 32nd minute as Burton pounced on his own grubber into the Newcastle in-goal to bag his second. He then added the extras, stretching the Panthers lead to 14-4.
Burton found himself with a first-half hat-trick just minutes later, taking on and blitzing Newcastle’s tiring defence to dash away as the halftime siren sounded. The five-eighth made no mistake with the conversion, sending the Panthers into the sheds with a 16-point lead.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 20-4 KNIGHTS
Newcastle went straight onto the attack in the early stages of the second half however the Panthers goal line defence absorbed the pressure to maintain their comprehensive lead.
The Knights narrowed the margin in the 40th minute however, with second rower Cooper Jenkins latching onto a short ball and crossing the stripe. Madden added the extras, closing the gap to 20-10.
After Bonnano forced back-to-back dropouts, Burton capitalised on Penrith’s field position, stepping his way to the try line for his fourth four-pointer of the afternoon. Burton then split the uprights with his conversion attempt, with the Panthers returning to a 16-point lead in the 50th minute.
A line break by Burton in the 52nd minute forced the Knights to defend their line again, and the five-eighth was inches away from scoring a fifth try before being dragged down by Newcastle’s desperate edge defence.
The Panthers put the result beyond doubt with nine minutes remaining when Cohen produced a one-on-one strip on Newcastle’s try line to touch down. Burton converted to take his individual tally to 24 points, while stretching Penrith’s lead to 32-10.
After winning the ball back from a dropout, the Knights grabbed a late consolation try as hooker Liam Wilkinson darted over from dummy half in the 65th minute.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 32-16 KNIGHTS