It wasn’t to be for the Newcastle Knights with the Penrith Panthers defeating the side in the NSW Cup grand final on Sunday afternoon.
The men in red and blue could not overcome the Panther’s early lead which saw them trailing 24-6 into the break.
It was second half blitz from the Panthers that blew out the scoreline, in what didn't necessary reflect Newcastle’s determination throughout.
Before kick off, Michael Dobson was ruled out due to a foot injury, with Tyler Randell replacing him, while Travis Waddell moved to starting hooker and Chad Redman shifted to the bench.
The Knights came out fast and with plenty of vigour but early errors from both sides damaged the game’s momentum.
A missed tackle by Timana Tahu saw the Panthers break the Knight’s defence with a five-eighth Luke Capewell putting the first points on the board for the opposition.
Wes Naiqama added the extras to bring the score to 6-0 after 7 minutes.
Soon after, an offside call had the Knights hot in attack to deliver Matt Minto over the line in the right corner.
The competition’s highest point scorer Josh Mantellato sent the ball through the posts to lock up the score at the 10 minute mark.
The Panthers lapped up the bulk of possession and rolled out set plays on the line but the Knights were unrelenting in defence forcing a number of errors.
But the Knights were soon stretched too far when the Panther’s front rower Isaiah Yeo barged over the line in the 23rd minute with Naiqama adding the extras to bring the score to 12-6.
The Panthers were in for back-to-back tries when a contentious pass saw full back Keiran Moss slip past the defence to ground the ball close to the posts while some push and shove broke out in the back play
Naiqama converted in front of the posts to stretch the Panthers lead to 18-6 with 15 minutes to go in the first half.
Soon after, the Panther’s half back was put on report for a late shot on Brenton Horwood.
With atmosphere fever pitch and the Knights hungry to gain yardage, things were looking positive, but the Panthers defence was ferocious and tackled a keen Nathan Ross over the sideline to see them back in attack.
Chanel Mata'utia was then put on report, but the Knights came up with the advantage and one of very few early opportunities in the game.
The Knights received two great opportunities to hit back in the late stages of the half, but couldn’t translate.
Then, just two minutes from half time, Panthers winger Eto Nabuli collected a lobbed ball from his centre to score in the left corner.
Naiquama’s successful kick from the sideline saw the Knights trailing 24-6 at the break.
Early exchanges in the second half were fierce and solid defence pushed the Penrith out of play.
The Panthers gifted the Knights the ball twice after a fumbled play and a charge down with the Knights conscientiously working closer to scoring.
The Knights looked like they were in, but the ball was lost in goal.
The Panthers threw the ball around on the last before a long pass from the Panther’s fullback made it to winger ground the ball.
Fortunately for the Knights, the try was not awarded due to obstruction.
The Panthers tired the Knights by working their refreshed forwards though the middle.
A knock on 10 metres from the Knights looked promising, but Minto’s kick failed to hit the spot which saw the Knights go begging.
In the following Panther’s set Waqa Blake capitalised on a well placed high ball to score the side’s fifth try of the day.
Naiqama made no error pushing the Panther’s lead to 30-6.
Off the back of a strong run from Sam Mataora that put the Panthers on the back foot, forward Pat Vaivai crashed over the line under the posts.
Mantellato converted to bring the score to 30-12 in the 60th minute.
The Knights showed glimmers of promise but couldn’t capitalise as time dwindled.
Panthers fullback Moss scored his second try of the match in the 70th minute between the posts. Naiqama added the extras to see the Panthers advantage widen to 36-12.
The Panthers turned it up on the same wing to see Moss score a hat-trick in an almost identical play with Naiqama again nailing the kick to bring the score to 42-12 with 6 minutes to play.
But it was not yet over for the Panthers with Ryan Simpkins diving over between the posts with 4 minutes to go.
The final conversion from Naiqama closed out the score at 46-12, securing the Panthers the grand final victory.
Newcastle Knights 12 (T: Minto, Vaivai G: Mantellato 2/2)
Penrith Panthers 48 (T: Moss 3, Capewell, Yeo, Nabuli, Blake, Simpkins, G: Naiqama 8/8)