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Luai tunes up for Origin after edging out Knights

Jarome Luai once again stepped up as chief playmaker to steer the Panthers to a 26-18 victory over a brave Knights side on Sunday. 

Set to head into Blues camp on Monday, Luai ensured his side took another two-points into the bye, with a try of his own and a hand in two others at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The Newcastle faithful were on their feet early when rookie Knights fullback Fletcher Sharpe had a moment to savour, running from the back and stepping past Blues pair Luai and Dylan Edwards to open the scoreboard.

The Panthers hit back in the 13th minute when fill-in five-eighth Brad Schneider produced a pinpoint kick which landed in the lap of Scott Sorensen who powered through to score. Rookie centre Paul Alamoti added the extras for 6-6.

The Panthers had a second just five minutes later when Luai and Schneider combined to send Brian To'o over untouched in the left corner for a 10-6 lead.

The first half then developed into an arm wrestle with both sides trading sets before Luai stamped his authority, crashing over with a show and go play from close range to take a 14-6 lead to the break.

Jarome Luai Try

The Knights' came up with a costly error in the 38th minute when Dane Gagai was dragged into touch and the Panthers marched downfield before Luai sent towering prop Lindsay Smith crashing over from close range.

Newcastle wrestled back some momentum after the break and grabbed a second try in the 53rd minute when Jackson Hastings sent Dylan Lucas through a gaping hole and the rising backrower powered through to score. Hastings converted to make it 20-12.

Dylan Lucas Try

An offside Panthers penalty handed the Knights an extra set on the line and Hastings made sure his side capitalised with a chip to the left for Bradman Best to pounce on and score. 

The Panthers gave themselves some breathing room with 15 minutes to play when prop Moses Leota put the burners and powered past several Knights defenders before finding Dylan Edwards in support to ice the 26-18 victory.

Match Snapshot

  • Knights forward Dylan Lucas was placed on report in the 72nd minute for a high tackle on Sunia Turuva.
  • Panthers halfback Jahrome Luai was a class above in the first half with a try, an assist and 106 run metres in the first 40 minutes.
  • Panthers winger Brian To’o has scored six tries in six games against the Knights.
  • The Panthers completed 35 of their 39 sets for 89 per cent.
  • Newcastle hooker Phoenix Crossland got through a mountain of work in his 61-minute stint with a team-high 51 tackles and 32-run metres out of dummy half.
  • Dylan Edwards gave Blues coach Michael Maguire plenty of confidence at fullback with 278 running metres and nine tackle breaks to go with his late try.
  • The Panthers have not been defeated at McDonald Jones Stadium since 2015.
  • The Knights have won only one of their past 15 games against the Panthers.

Play of the Game 

Since news his left-hand man James Fisher Harris will be departing the club, Moses Leota has continued to show why he's ready to stand up as the chief prop in 2025. When the Panthers' needed to wrestle momentum back late in the match the 28-year-old Kiwi star split open the Knights defence and powered downfield to send Dylan Edwards over for a try. 

Dylan Edwards Try

What They Said 

"Majority of the talk at half time was about not giving up and making sure we fight really hard for Mark (Hughes), the foundation, for ourselves and for the fans given what happened last time here. I couldn't ask for anything else in terms of effort, there was some technical things and lapses that have hurt us two weeks in a row against good teams." - Knights coach Adam O'Brien

"We played really the first half but once the crowd got into it and they got their tails up, it was good that we steadied it and that try got us to eight points which was enough. The tries we gave up didn't really felt like a result of constant pressure so that was concerning. I think Jarome is a good example of resilience. He missed that tackle for the first try but played so well after that, it takes a lot of courage to bounce back after a bad start. He really stepped up when he needed to." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary

NRL Press Conference: Knights v Panthers - Round 15, 2024

What's Next

Both sides enjoy a bye in Round 16 before the Knights host the Eels and the Panthers host the Cowboys in Round 17.

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.