The Newcastle Knights were beaten 42-6 by the Penrith Panthers at Hunter Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Knights came into the game with several late changes, and while the two teams were locked at six points apiece at half time the Panthers were on fire in the second period, scoring six unanswered tries.
Four minutes in the Knights got the perfect attacking opportunity when Josh Mansour dropped the ball ten metres out from his own line. While the Knights didn’t score, a sweet Jarrod Mullen grubber earned the Novocastrians a repeat set.
A Jake Mamo knock-on soon after meant the Knights earned nothing from their extended pressure, and five minutes later the Panthers scored following what looked like a dropped ball. The referee ruled that it wasn’t a knock-on, and winger Josh Mansour found enough space on the opposite edge to cross over untouched seconds later. Nathan Cleary’s attempted conversion ricocheted off an upright to leave the score at 4-0.
The Knights got another repeat set 25 minutes in following a good grubber from Trent Hodkinson that Dallin Watene-Zelezniak had to knock out of play. In the next set the Knights came close thank to some sharp short passing on the left touchline, but the Panthers’ defence held firm and Mitch Barnett was tackled on the last.
The red and blues finally got their try five minutes later, Brendan Elliot latching onto a Hodkinson kick to run through a static Panthers defence and score his sixth try in eight appearances for the Knights. Hodkinson converted to put the Knights into the lead, but a minute before half time the Panthers were awarded a penalty 20 metres out for Cleary to kick and even the scores.
Five minutes into the second half the Panthers went back into the lead, Peter Wallace running 20 metres from dummy-half and then slipping fullback Matt Moylan through a gaping hole to score beneath the posts. Cleary converted to establish a six-point buffer between the two sides, and then ten minutes later it went up to 12 when centre Waqa Blake pinned his ears back and ran 20 metres to score.
It only got worse for the Knights as a horror pass from Mamo on a kick return soon after saw Dane Gagai drop the ball ten metres out from his own line. Tyrone Peachey was quick to punish the home side, ducking and dodging his way through the line to score beneath the uprights.
With 18 minutes left on the clock it looked as though Watene-Zelezniak could inflict more pain on the Knights when he made a break down the right touchline, but Elliot did enough to force him out of play and the Knights escaped to attack again.
Watene-Zelezniak got his try soon after though, receiving a pass from Blake to stroll over untouched. Cleary converted to push the score to 28-6, and then from a scrum five minutes later Watene-Zelezniak got his second.
Mansour finished off the scoring with seconds left on the clock, Cleary converting to make the final score 42-6.
Newcastle Knights 6 (T: Elliot, G: Hodkinson 1/1)
Penrith Panthers 42 (T: Mansour 2, Moylan, Blake, Peachey, Watene-Zelezniak 2, G: Cleary 6/7, P: 1/1)