Coach Matt Lantry said he's satisfied with the NSW Cup Newcastle Knights’ Round 4 effort particularly with a number of players taking the field for the first time this season.
The Newcastle Knights won the match 18-16 against 2014 competition premiers, the Penrith Panthers thanks to a last minute penalty goal from hooker Chad Redman.
“The effort was great,” Lantry said after the game.
“We were a little underdone with Marvin Filipo, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Jaelen Feeney playing their first game back after a long period of time.
“There were some late changes and some guys being cleared later in the week.
“I think that we come together well as a team and if we can build on that now, and challenge ourselves with consistent performances, that’s the key.
“It was always going to be tough for us particularly in the back end of the second half.
“We gave up a 16-point lead, but we just challenged them to keep turning up for each other.
“We got a little bit of luck at the end to get away with the win."
Lantry noted quality performances from the Knights’ forwards who allowed the Knights’ outside backs good opportunities.
“I thought our middle was great. Joe Tapine and Sam Mataora probably had their best game for the year,” he said.
“Carlos (Tuimavave) and Jaelen Feeney gave us some real control in the halves.
“All in all, I give a massive wrap to our guys who defended and attacked in the middle.”
While Lantry denies the side approached the game as a Grand Final re-match, the win was made sweeter after falling short of winning the competition last year.
“Certainly there’s a little bit of revenge there, obviously making up for a grand final loss, but we never approached it like that,” he said.
“It was all about us this week and making sure we executed well and we challenged the guys to carry the ball a bit tougher and they got the job done."
The match was the first for Jaelen Feeney after he injured his elbow in the Knights’ trial match in Wauchope.
“It was unreal to get out there with the boys after suffering an injury so close to the start of the season," Feeney said.
“It was good to get out there and have a good hit. It’s definitely a step up from NYC, playing against men who are experienced and a bit bigger and stronger.”
The 20-year-old halfback started his 2015 campaign strongly by scoring the Knights first try.
“I got a bit lucky actually,” he said.
“I knew that with Fitzgibbon outside me that they’d put a little pressure on him and he’s a good hole runner so that took a bit of pressure off me.
"The heat was a factor today, my game fitness isn’t up there being my first game so I knew I’d have to keep pushing along.
“I knew my elbow was going to be all right, so I just backed myself and it was good to get a win with the team."
Feeney, who trained with the Knights NRL squad during the pre-season was proud of the team’s cohesion and the support his teammates offered.
“I feel everyone put in a great effort and everyone watched each others backs,” he said.
“When it came down to the dying minutes, everyone stuck by each other and I feel it was a good team win today.”
Meanwhile, Carlos Tuimavave played his first game at Hunter Stadium in the red and blue since recovering from an ankle injury sustained at the Auckland Nines tournament.
“It was awesome. The fans were good,” Tuimavave said.
“We played well, but it was just that second half where we fell off a little bit.
“We went away from what we practiced, but luckily enough we came away with the win."
After a disappointing loss to the Wyong Roos the previous week, Tuimavave said the team focused their energy on making improvements before taking on the 2014 premiers.
“We worked hard last week on our game plan and executing our plays and sticking to our systems and I think we did that well today,” he said.
“It got a little bit panicky out there and at the end we set up for that drop goal and got charged down and got the penalty and things went our way.
“They were tough and obviously took out the comp last year, so they are the benchmark this year, so to get a win over them was good and to do it home was even better.”