A youthful reserve grade Knights side lost 28-16 to the Penrith Panthers at Hunter Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Calling up three NYC regulars to the side, the red and blues fought bravely to come from ten points down. But in the end the Panthers showed too much composure, and scored two tries in quick succession midway through the second stanza to win the game.
The Panthers marched up the field in the very first set of the game, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak capping it off with a try in the left corner as the various new additions to the Knights’ reserve grade side struggled for cohesion.
Eight minutes later the away side looked good for another try when Watene-Zelezniak made a 30 metre break down the same edge, but debutant Dean Kouka-Smith came out of nowhere to intercept his late pass inside.
There was no denying the Panthers in the 19th minute, halfback Zach Dockar-Clay finishing off a 40 metre break to dive between the posts.
The Knights finally snapped out of their lethargy four minutes later, Lachlan Fitzgibbon wrestling his way over the line with three defenders hanging on. Bryce Donovan’s attempted conversion sliced wide, the score 10-4.
Soon after that try the red and blues kept up the good work by earning a repeat set from a line dropout, and Kouka-Smith popped up to score a four-pointer on the right flank. Donovan converted this time, but minutes later the Panthers bounced back for their third try, Watene-Zelezniak again finding space on the left edge.
Hall converted to make the half-time score 16-10, but early in the second half the Knights came up with a stunning 50 metre try finished off by Donovan. He added the two points from the tee to make the scores even, but with 20 minutes to play the Panthers again struck back via Watene-Zelezniak.
Four minutes later Tyrone Peachey increased the lead when he crossed over beneath the uprights, and Hall converted on both occasions to make the final score 28-16.
Newcastle Knights 16 (T: Fitzgibbon, Kouka-Smith, Donovan; G: Donovan 2/3)
Penrith Panthers 28 (T: Watene-Zelezniak 3, Dockar-Clay, Peachey; G: 4/5)
5. Bryce Donovan, 2. Ken Tofilau, 26. Henry Penn, 4. James Elias, 22. Dean Kouka-Smith, 6. Dylan Phythian, 25. Jack Kelly, 8. Josh King, 9. Kurt Aldridge, 17. Uiti Baker, 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12. Luke Yates, 13. Tekina Vailea. Interchange: 10. Tama Koopu, 14. Danny Kerr, 15. Bradie Smith, 19. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown.
17. Zac McKay, 2. Josh Hall, 3. Sam Clune, 4. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 5. George Jennings, 6. Matt Place, 7. Zach Dockar-Clay, 22. Tyrone Peachey, 9. Sione Katoa, 10. Moses Leota, 11. Corey Harawira-Nalera, 12. Sitaleki Akauola, 13. Elijah Taylor. Interchange: 8. Andy Sanders, 14. Brendan Attwood, 15. Ben Garcia, 16. Tupou Topoaga.