Penrith Panthers have thrashed the Newcastle Knights 42-16 in the final round of the home-and-away season at Maitland Sports Ground on Saturday.
Panthers five-eighth Riley Pollard recorded 18 points, kicking seven conversions and bagging a try in the second half.
Penrith were quick to put pressure on the home side with a high kick from Pollard proving too difficult to catch fullback Logan Aoake, and centre John-Paul Donevski gathered the ball to score the opening try.
Pollard’s conversion attempt from out wide sailed through the posts, adding an extra two points for Penrith.
A high kick from Knights halfback Fletcher Thompson went straight through the Panthers hands before Navren Willett scooped up the ball and offloaded it to winger Benjamin Geary, who dived over to score.
Absorbing the pressure from defending their line, the Panthers punished the Knights in the minutes that followed, snagging two tries in four minutes. Donevski challenged the line before looking left to find Casey Mclean in support on the wing. The pass bounced off the turf before Mclean took possession and dived through the legs of the Knights’ defence to score.
Panthers prop Tana Papu claimed the second off the back of a tackle break from captain Jenson Tuaoi. The skipper flicked an outside short ball to Papu, who crashed over beside the posts. Pollard kicked both conversions with ease to give Penrith a 14-point lead.
Determined to get back into the game, the Knights made the most of repeat sets on their try line giving forward Jarred Williams the chance to score. Votano added the extras to bring the deficit to eight.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 18 – KNIGHTS 10
Coming out of the sheds with new-found energy, the Panthers made the most of a Newcastle error in opening minute using their possession to spread the ball left to right to find Wilson De Courcey on the wing for his seventh try of the season.
Pollard continued his kicking dominance from touch, restoring Penrith’s 14-point lead.
In the 36th minute, another opportunity came knocking for Penrith and this time it was Billy Thompson who took advantage of a gap in the Knights defensive line to reach out and put the ball down. Pollard extended his team’s advantage to 20 with 25 minutes left of play.
Off the back of tenacious push-back defence, the Panthers found themselves in again after Pollard challenged the space in the defensive line and grounded the ball in goal.
Converting his sixth goal of the day, Pollard notched the Panthers lead out to 26 unanswered points.
A late four-pointer from Newcastle’s Jye Linnane wasn’t enough to bring the Knights back into the game, as Tuaomaliemavaitoelau Patea dodged and weaved his way through the Newcastle line off the kick off to an extra four points to Penrith’s account in the final minute.
Pollard kicked his seventh conversion from seven attempts on the siren to seal the victory for Penrith in the final round of the home and away season.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 42 – KNIGHTS 16