The NYC Newcastle Knights went down 36-18 to league-leaders the Penrith Panthers at Pepper Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With two debutants in the team and plenty of big names moving up to NSW Cup for the round, the young Knights did well with the players available.
The red and blues had all of the early possession, but the Panthers still came up with first points when lock Tyrone May picked up a bouncing grubber to run 20 metres and score. Nathan Cleary made the conversion to push the score to 6-0 with ten minutes played.
Nine minutes later the home side were over again when prop Moses Leota found some space beneath the uprights, and Cleary again converted to double his side’s lead.
Minutes later Cleary grabbed a try of his own when he received an offload 40 metres. There was no catching the sprightly halfback, and with another conversion soon after the score was 18-0.
The red and blues were leaking points at an alarming rate now, and two minutes later the Panthers were over again, this time via winger Maliko Filino in the left corner.
Eight minutes before half-time Mathew Faitotoa looked certain to score a try when Brock Lamb threaded a grubber through the line, but Panthers fullback Brent Naden was alert to the danger and knocked the ball out of touch.
There was no stopping Braden Robson in the following set though, as he finished off a neat move from the line drop-out. Lamb added the extras to push the half-time score to 22-6.
Eight minutes into the second half Cleary bagged his second with a 20 metre run, and added another two points on from the tee.
Six minutes later the Knights struck back, Mathew Faitotoa receiving a pass 30 metres out to leave the Panthers’ defence in his dust. Bryce Donovan made the conversion to push the score to 28-12.
With 18 minutes left on the clock a good kick-chase from the Knights saw Naden drop the ball in his own in-goal. Daniel Saifiti was the quickest to react, and scored an easy try left of the uprights.
The Knights continued to build pressure with multiple sets on the opposition line, but all the good work was undone with ten minutes to play when the Panthers capitalised on a string of penalties. Interchange hooker Dylan Edwards grounded a scrappy kick, pushing his side’s lead to 16 points.
With three minutes left on the clock Filino grabbed his second try for the Panthers, pushing the final score to 36-18.
Newcastle Knights 18 (T: Robson, M Faitotoa, D Saifiti; G: Lamb 1/1, Donovan 2/2)
Penrith Panthers 36 (T: May, Leota, Cleary 2, Filino 2, Edwards; G: Cleary 4/ 7)
Donovan, Gagai, Birch, Robson, M Faitotoa, Lamb, Cogger, King, Kelly, D Saifiti, Smith, B Stone, F Faitotoa. Bench: McNamara, Easton, Butterfield, Jones.