It's only round one, but the Newcastle Knights’ NSW Cup side got some revenge on Penrith for knocking them out of last year's competition with an impressive 24-14 win over the Panthers at Sportingbet Stadium on Saturday.
In a re-match of last year’s Preliminary Final, won 36-32 by the then Windsor Wolves, the Knights' charged to victory on the back of a strong second half performance where they scored 14 points and only conceded four.
New recruit Matt Minto was a standout at halfback in his official debut match for the Club, impressing with a strong kicking game that led to a number of tries.
The former premiership-winning Mackay Cutters No.7 looked more than capable at this level and proved he'll be a valued member of the Knights' squad going forward.
Winger Chanel Mata'utia snared a hat-trick in the triumph, while forwards Pat Vaivai, Korbin Sims and Matt Hilder all looked good in the win.
The only negative for the Knights was fullback Honeti Tuha being placed on report in the first half.
Newcastle came out full of running and opened the scoring after 10 minutes via winger Chanel Mata’utia.
The second oldest of the four Mata’utia brothers showcased sheer speed to cross out wide.
Mantellato missed the kick from the sideline, but the Knights had an early 4-0 lead.
Newcastle extended their advantage five minutes later when Mata’utia bagged his second try thanks to a perfectly timed kick by five-eighth Tyler Randell.
Mantellato slotted the kick from the sideline to stretch the lead out to 10-0.
The Knights’ were in control and Penrith looked rattled as a result, coming up with a number of basic errors.
This poor start for the Panthers was given a boost 13 minutes before the break when former Knight Will Smith strolled over from close range.
Smith missed the conversion to reduce Newcastle’s lead to 10-4.
At this stage, Penrith were starting to feel their way back into the game on the back of their forwards.
As a result, winger Eddie Aiono scored out wide and Smith converted to lock the scores at 10-all with five left in the first half.
Of greater concern for the Knights was the fact fullback Honeti Tuha was placed on report for sliding his legs into Aiono as he scored.
The Panthers dominated possession for the rest of the half, but Newcastle held on with some strong defence to go to the break at 10 a piece.
Newcastle had a terrible start to the second half with forward Dave Fa’alogo knocking on from the kick-off.
This gifted the Panthers possession, but they weren’t able to convert with the Knights’ defence staying strong.
Newcastle was rewarded for this resilience five minutes later when centre Pat Mata’utia pounced on a brilliant kick from halfback Matt Minto to score.
Mantellato missed the kick, but the Knights led 14-10.
Newcastle extended their advantage in the 50th minute as a result of a slick backline movement.
Pat Mata’utia put on a flick-pass reminiscent to that of Club CEO Matt Gidley in his playing days for Mantellato to cross in the corner.
Mantellato crossed the conversion, but the Knights were still in control leading 18-10.
Penrith had a chance to get back into the match five minutes later, but couldn't get over the line as a result of Newcastle's defence.
The Knights then went the length of the field and extended their lead with winger Chanel Mata'utia grabbing his third try.
Mata'utia leaped for the corner to snare a scintillating mid-air try. Mantellato added the extras from the sideline to give the men in red and blue a commanding 24-10 lead with just 15 minutes remaining.
Penrith refused to give in though and crossed through centre Tom Eisenhuth in the 68th minute. The conversion hit the upright and Newcastle maintained a 24-14 lead with 10 left on the clock.
NSW Cup Full Time
Newcastle Knights 24 (T: C Mata’utia 3, P Mata’utia, Mantellato, G: Mantellato 2/5)
Penrith Panthers 14 (T: Smith, Aiono, Eisenhuth, G: Smith 1/3)
Knights: Tuha, Mantellato, Willame, P.Mata’utia, C.Mata’utia, Randell, Minto, Fa’alogo, Redman, Vaivai, Sims, Siulepa, Hilder. Bench: Elias, Horwood, Steele, Likiliki.
Panthers: Watene-Zalazniak, Naiqama, Jennings, Eisenhuth, Aiono, Smith, John, Anderson, Moseley, spence, Robinson, Smith, Simpkins. Bench: Campbell-Gillard, Foster, Latu, Ross.
In earlier results, the Knights’ SG Ball and Harold Matthews outfits both recorded strong wins over St George on Saturday.
The SG Ball defeated the Dragons 40-26, while the Harold Matthews won 52-12.
Fullback Matt Cooper scored six tries in the Knights’ big win in the Harold Matthews.
Footy’s back at Hunter Stadium!
Support the Knights in the team's Round 2 clash against Canberra, this Sunday, March 16 at Hunter Stadium. Click Here to purchase your tickets now!