A bottom placed Newcastle Knights ISP side showed grit and determination against ladder leaders the Penrith Panthers, but were edged out in the final ten minutes 36-26 at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Locked at 12-all halftime, the visitors stormed into the second half and piled on the points but a Brock Lamb, Jack Cogger combination saw the Knights claw their way back, only for the table toppers to put down the accelerator to stage an impressive ten-point victory.
A blistering start against the ladder leaders as Knights forward Zac Hosking forced his way over in the 8th minute. Lamb nailed the kick to see an early 6-0 to the home side.
Promoted from the 20s, Matt Cooper did what he does best and used blistering speed to get around the big forwards before he dished off to Brodie Jones to finish with the try.
Lamb then booted two from two and quickly the score line stretched out to a 12-0 lead to the Knights.
The visitors fired after 20 minutes of play, as Corey Waddell found some space on the right edge to stroll over for their first try. Adam Keighran added the extras to trail 12-6 to Newcastle.
Tom Hughes had a run at the line down the left edge but was muscled by Panthers big men over the sidelines to hand possession back to the visitors.
With less than five minutes before halftime, the Panthers ran a smart play down the middle to see William Burns side step his way across. Keighran booted the conversion to lock scores at 12-all into the break.
Penrith didn't waste any time with a quick try to start the second half thanks to Burns with the double. Keighran slotted another conversion as the Panthers took the lead for the first time in the match, 18-12.
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A break by the visitors in the 53rd minute saw an impressive 80 metre try. Ratu Tuisese gathered the last pass to leg it to the line. Keighran made it 24-12 to the visitors.
Back together again in the halves, Lamb pulled off a precision grubber which saw a high bounce land in the hands of partner Cogger, who dived over in the 56th minute. Lamb booted the conversion to get the Knights to within a converted try.
Two minutes later it was a Lamb, Cogger combination again before it was handed to Pat Mata'utia who charged through the middle to get them within two points. Lamb slotted the kick through the uprights and it was tied 24-all with 20 minutes to play.
With 10 minutes to play, the Knights were awarded a penalty 15 metres out and Lamb opted to take the kick to edge them two points in front, 26-24.
What was a blinder for the Panthers no. 11, Burns stepped on the right to crash through for the hat trick. A successful conversion saw the Panthers take back the lead, 30-26.
Maiko Sivo put the nail in the coffin in the final minute as he crossed over on the right edge for the visitors. The ladder leaders able to hold off an exhuberant Knights to win, 36-26.
Knights 26 (T: Hosking, Jones, Cogger, Mata'utia G: Lamb 4/4, PG: Lamb 1/1)
Panthers 36 (T: Waddell, Burns 3, Tuisese, Sivo G: Keighran 6/6)