Penrith Panthers have suffered a harsh defeat by the Newcastle Knights, going down 50-4 at Maitland Sports Ground on Saturday.
The absence of dynamic halves Taytana Ifopo and Brooke Talataia proved costly for the Panthers, who struggled to generate creativity in attack and lacked cohesion in defence.
The Knights made the most of the home ground advantage, with Mia Middleton, Kasey Gaukroger and Sophie Clancy bagging doubles.
A strong run from five-eighth Jesse Southwell put the Knights in prime position for Clancy to scoop the ball up from dummy half and dive through the Panthers defensive line to score in the opening minute. Southwell’s conversion attempt sailed through the posts to extend the home side’s lead to six.
The Knights capitalised off a left side overlap in the fourth minute, spreading the ball from right to left to find Gaukroger unmarked on the wing who made an easy run to the try line. A kick from touch was no challenge for Southwell, who added the extra two points for Newcastle.
In the nine minutes that followed, the Knights ran in three unanswered tries to increase their lead to 28-0.
Tori Brazier received a beautiful cut out ball from Southwell to cross the line undefended, while a three-on-one overlap on the left helped Gaukroger bag a first-half double. Prop Ebony Woodcock scored the third, ploughing through six Panthers to put the ball on the line.
An inspiring chase down from Panthers five-eighth Yasmine Baker halted Alyssa Shoulders from adding another four points to the board as half time approached. Breaking through Penrith’s defensive line, Shoulders made a 30-metre dash before being taken down by Baker who dragged her into touch.
Taking advantage of the Panthers’ exhaustion, Clancy secured her second try of the game in the 28th minute, dodging through the defence to score under the posts. Southwell made no mistake with her conversion attempt from in front, taking the Knights’ lead out to 34 points on the stroke of half time.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 0 – KNIGHTS 34
The Knights carried their momentum into the second half, as Penrith made some strong runs early but were shut down by tough defence.
Newcastle centre Mia Middleton claimed two tries in three minutes, diving over unmarked on the right edge for her first, while chasing down a kick on the fifth tackle for her second. Southwell slotted the first conversion from touch, before handing the tee to Madison Marmion who kicked the second from in front, taking the lead out to 46-0.
A monstrous run from Knights prop Mercydes Metcalf put her team in dominant field position once again, as Southwell created another opportunity on the next tackle to send Marmion over for another four points. Marmion’s conversion swayed to the left for Newcastle but they’d already notched up a half century of points.
The first and only point-scoring opportunity came for the Panthers in the final three minutes, with an offload from Shemariah Tagalomatua finding the hands of Linae Williams who flicked a short ball to centre Kahliah Brown. Brown charged at three Knights muscling her way through the crowd to put the ball down on the line. Panthers captain Chelsea Makira’s kick didn’t make it to through the posts.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 4 – KNIGHTS 50