Mitch Barnett became the first Newcastle player since 2013 to be sent off as a brave Knights outfit went down 38-20 to Penrith at Carrington Park in Bathurst on Saturday.
Barnett's elbow to the jaw of Panther Chris Smith in the 33rd minute was both late and high and left referee Peter Gough with no option but to march him.
The Knights were leading 6-4 at the time courtesy of Dominic Young's converted try in the 19th minute which answered Taylan May's early strike but the numerical advantage soon told.
Four minutes after Barnett exited, May had a second try thanks to a pinpoint grubber from Izack Tago.
Tago was in the thick of things again in the 50th minute when a Sean O'Sullivan bomb was spilled by the Knights and the young centre dived on the loose ball just before it went dead.
Taylan May scores his first NRL try
The Knights hit back just four minutes later through stand-in fullback Tex Hoy, who showed plenty of pace to outstrip the Panthers cover and it was 18-12 to Penrith.
Tago's second try for the day from a May kick steadied the ship for the premiers before a gem of a pass from Edwards gave Stephen Crichton a clear run to the corner and the score had blown out to 28-12.
Bradman Best then showcased his speed and power to score in the 64th minute as the Knights continued to dig deep despite being a man down.
Tex Hoy carves them up
Good hands by Kurt Mann and Hoy then set up winger Enari Tuala for his 13th try in his past 10 games and the Knights were back within eight.
May put the icing on the Panthers' cake when he completed his hat-trick with three minutes to play and Charlie Staines added his name to the tryscoring list in the closing seconds.
Match: Panthers v Knights
Round 3 -
Venue: Carrington Park, Bathurst
- Knights hooker Chris Randall was placed on report in just the fourth minute for a crusher tackle on Charlie Staines.
- Kurt Mann copped an accidental kick to the groin area and stayed down for several minutes as he tried to catch his breath. He was then ordered from the field for a HIA which left the Knights No.13 bemused to say the least.
- The Knighhts have won just one of their past 11 games against the Panthers.
- Mitch Barnett is the first Newcastle player to be sent off since Kade Snowden against the Cowboys in 2013.
- Chris Smith was sent for a HIA after the hit by Barnett. He failed the HIA and did not return to the field.
- Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards was at his elusive and energetic best with 216 metres from 21 runs while Stephen Crichton (165m) and Taylan May (162m) also racked up big numbers.
Play of the Game
It's not a moment that Mitch Barnett or his coach Adam O'Brien will want to relive but it was the turning point in a match that had been evenly poised until the Knights back-rower had a brain explosion. Barnett raised his elbow and caught Chris Smith high and late after the Panther had run through as a decoy. After the bunker had reviewed the play there was only ever going to be one outcome and that was Barnett receiving his marching orders and leaving his team a man down for 47 minutes.
Mitch Barnett sent off
What They Said
"I don't think we would have lost too many supporters in terms of our effort but we got some lessons there, too. I can't talk about [Mitch Barnett] because it's going to the judiciary. I'll tell you what Mitch doesn't need is me coming out and kicking him publicly. He's part of our family and we'll deal with it behind closed doors and there's no one feeling any worse than Mitch down there at the moment." - Knights coach Adam O'Brien
"They're really good mates [Tago and May]. They spent the whole time up in Queensland [last year] training together and doing everything together and they definitely have a good connection. They had a fun day out and learned a couple of things along the way as well." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary
The Panthers are at home to the Rabbitohs in a rematch of last year's grand final. Superstar halfback Nathan Cleary should be right to return after his shoulder surgery in a massive boost for the premiers.
The Knights kick off Friday Night Footy with a trip to the Shire to face the Sharks who they beat twice in 2021. They look set to be without Barnett for a number of weeks but will welcome back Kalyn Ponga and Daniel Saifiti after both missed the trip to Bathurst.