The Newcastle Knights had their chances, but couldn't contain the Penrith Panthers creative men in a disappointing 32-10 loss at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
In a match marred by handling errors, the Panthers proved too strong inspired by halves Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace.
Penrith led 16-10 at the halftime break and maintained that control in the second with a further three tries to record a comfortable victory.
Newcastle certainly can't be faulted for their effort, but struggled to build momentum up front without experienced campaigners Willie Mason and Jeremy Smith.
Rookies Joe Tapine and Pat Vaivai both impressed on debut under difficult circumstances, while forwards Adam Cuthbertson and Beau Scott also tried hard.
The Knights will look to hit back when they take on Manly at Brookvale Oval next Monday night.
Tapine and Pat Vaivai were both named to make their NRL debuts.
The Knights had a dream start to the match when winger James McManus finished off a backline movement to score in the eastern corner.
McManus strolled over after slick passes from Jarrod Mullen and centre Joey Leilua.
Gidley missed the conversion from the sideline, but it was the Knights with an early 4-0 lead.
Newcastle looked strong in the opening exchanges, but a vital mistake gave Penrith possession.
This enabled Panthers winger David Simmons to cross out wide and level the scores at 4-all after 10 minutes following a Jamie Soward missed conversion.
Knights skipper Kurt Gidley left the field after 18 minutes of the first half with concussion, but later returned to finish the first half.
Penrith took the lead after 20 minutes following a brilliant tap back play by fullback Matt Moylan.
In an amazing effort, Moylan kept the ball from going over the dead ball line while in mid-air.
He then dived on a loose pass from Leilua to extend Penrith’s lead to 10-4 after another Soward conversion.
Penrith were full of running in wet conditions and looked to have scored again in the next set, but forward Tyrone Peachey was held up over the line.
Panthers lock Nigel Plum was stretchered off the field after 25 minutes following a late hit on Mullen.
Plum’s head connected with Mullen’s shoulder, but he was placed on report for the late shot.
This gave Newcastle great field possession, allowing centre Dane Gagai to barge over from close range.
Gidley added the extras from the sideline to lock the scores at 10-all with 11 minutes remaining in the first half.
Newcastle prop Kade Snowden knocked on in the following set and Penrith made the Knights pay with a great individual try to Soward.
The former Dragon did it all himself to beat four defenders and score next to the uprights.
Soward converted his own try to give the Panthers a 16-10 lead with eight minutes left in the opening half.
Penrith had an ideal chance to extend their lead in the dying stages of the first half, but forward Jeremy Latimore couldn’t hold the ball.
The Panthers still went into the halftime break leading 16-10.
Newcastle came out for the second half full of energy and forced an early line dropout from Penrith following a pinpoint Mullen kick.
The Knights were unable to convert the opportunity though due to a handling error.
Penrith extended their lead seven minutes into the second half when winger Josh Mansour crashed over after a bat back from Jamal Idris.
Soward missed the conversion from out wide, but it was the Panthers with a comfortable 20-10 lead with 32 minutes remaining.
Penrith added to their advantage just five minutes later when centre Dean Whare picked up a loose pass from Leilua to race away and score under the posts.
Soward converted from in front to give the Panthers a commanding 26-16 lead with 27 minutes left on the clock.
Knights halfback, Tyrone Roberts looked to have scored three minutes later, but lost control of the ball over the line.
Newcastle were struggling to find open space against Penrith, who were strong in defence throughout much of the second half.
This was on display after 64 minutes when the Panthers dragged Leilua over the sideline with the try line looming.
Knights replacement hooker Adam Clydsdale was placed on report in the dying stages of the match.
Penrith received a penalty and Soward added the extras to give the Panthers a 28-10 lead with four minutes remaining.
The Panthers finished off the match in style when hooker James Segeyaro barged over from close range. Soward missed the conversion, but it was the away team who proved too good on the day.