A near-perfect completion rate wasn't enough as the Canterbury Cup Panthers suffered a 30-22 loss to Newcastle Knights at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.
Penrith were polished with the ball in hand, only making their first handling error of the game in the 70th minute, however a number of crucial penalties gave the Knights enough attacking possession to claim victory.
The Panthers went into the match without the services of Brayden McGrady (ACL), Paea Pua (concussion) and Stephen Crichton, while Sione Katoa and Nick Lui-Toso were out suspended.
Billy Burns scored a quick second-half double to put the Panthers ahead but a few defensive lapses cost them in the end.
After scoring two tries and having a hand in two others for the U20s NSW side just over a week ago, five-eighth Matt Burton put in another strong performance in a losing side.
Burton’s short-range kicking game was precise and was a constant presence in attack as he tried to inspire Penrith to victory.
He took on the line early before kicking ahead for Jake Tago. The 20-year old then danced down the touchline before linking inside with Burton backing up in support.
Jed Cartwright nailed the conversion from the sideline to hand Penrith a 6-0 lead after just three minutes.
An early-count penalty handed Newcastle their first chance in the Panthers red zone and they immediately capitalised.
Mitch Andrews showed incredible balance to snatch a Mason Lino kick and force the ball down with millimetres to spare.
Zac Hosking then burst through the middle and put Chris Randall under the posts as Newcastle went back-to-back.
Both conversions from Lino were successful.
After weathering constant pressure the Panthers were able to build pressure of their own after a lovely kick from Burton forced a dropout.
Soon after they hit back as a quick tip-on from Charlie Staines put Malakai Watene-Zelezniak over in the corner.
Cartwright’s attempt from the sideline shaved the posts.
Six consecutive penalties late in the half saw Newcastle camp on Penrith’s line and eventually they took advantage as Jirah Momoisea crashed over in the 39th minute.
Lino piloted it through from right in front.
HALF-TIME: Panthers 10 Knights 18
An error off the opening set of the second half handed the Panthers an early in the opposition red zone.
And a smart offload from Tyrell Fuimaono saw second rower Billy Burns surge over for his eighth try of the year.
Shortly after he made it nine as he crashed through off a short ball from Dean Blore.
Filling in for Cartwright, Blore slotted both conversions as the Panthers regained the lead.
In a seesawing affair, momentum swung back in Newcastle’s favour as Tex Hoy sliced through to score in the 58th minute.
The Knights centre had a double five minutes later as he steamed through off a well-executed left-side raid to re-establish the half-time lead.
It proved enough as Newcastle held on for an eight-point win while Penrith slip out of first place on the ladder.
FULL-TIME: Panthers 22 Knights 30