80:00
Sun 21 May 2017
McDonald Jones Stadium - Crowd: 13319

Undermanned Panthers pounce late to power past Newcastle

The Panthers have overcome injuries to Peter Wallace and Bryce Cartwright as well as another shocking first half performance to rally home and down the Knights 30-20 in front of over 13,000 fans.

Penrith have gained a reputation for being slow starters in recent weeks and they did that justice in the opening half against Newcastle. It all kicked off in the 3rd minute when Brock Lamb opened the scoring after a strong run from Sione Mata'utia. Then, Penrith's defence crumpled once more when a pinpoint pass from hooker Danny Levi found a rampaging Daniel Saifiti.

The Panthers had seemingly forgotten there was such a thing as a first half as they gave away countless penalties, inviting Newcastle to extend their lead. Luckily, a try saver from Bryce Cartwright in the 15th minute denied Sione Mata'utia after another slicing run from the Newcastle second rower. Yet Penrith's hopes of a comeback were dealt a cruel blow when hooker Peter Wallace was helped off the field - he would not return. The next ten minutes of the clash descended into a flurry of errors before a penalty gifted the Knights an extra two points.

Controversy would ensue only minutes from the break when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak fumbled the ball on his line only for the referees to rule a strip against the home side. Despite an awful first half, Penrith fans would have been pleased their side only trailed by 14 and having overcoming a 22-point deficit the week prior, some hope still remained. 

The game was almost decided only minutes into the second half when Jaelen Feeney displayed some serious pace to burn the Penrith defenders and link with his halves partner in Lamb. Yet, luckily for the away side, it was ruled back for a forward pass. Things got worse for the away side when five-eighth Bryce Cartwright was forced off the field.

However, the Panthers were presented with the perfect opportunity to hit back in the following minutes as a series of penalties saw the away side camped on the Newcastle line. They would finally capitalise in the 48th minute when Trent Merrin popped out a perfect ball for his skipper Matt Moylan to score. The comeback was well and truly on when a sharp ball from new dummy-half Tyrone Peachey was received by Leilanu Latu who crashed over to reduce the deficit to just two. Penrith were finally beginning to show some patience, forcing two drop-outs and building more pressure and it paid off.

An awful pass hit the ground and was scooped up by James Tamou who would stroll under the posts to put Penrith in front for the first time. And the Panthers would go back-to-back moments later when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak pounced on a Cleary grubber to extend his side's lead.

Moylan would grab a double seven minutes later when he followed through his own kick, which was dropped by Newcastle fullback Dane Gagai and suddenly the Panthers looked likely 13+ victors. Yet, deservedly the home side restored some respect when a beautiful ball from Feeney found Peter Mata'utia who crossed out wide in the 79th minute. In the end, however, it was the Panthers running away 30-20 winners. 

Both sides will enjoy the week off next week with the Knights preparing for a Friday night showdown against the Storm in two weeks' time. Meanwhile, the Panthers are likely to be boosted by the return of Josh Mansour when they battle the Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium in Round 13. Yet, they will still have some injury concerns with James Fisher-Harris, Isaah Yeo, Cartwright and Wallace all a chance of missing that clash. 

3. Trent Merrin

An enormous performance from Merrin to push his claims for an Origin spot. Ran for 196 metres, made 35 tackles and set up Penrith's first try of the day off a great offload.

2. Matt Moylan

A brilliant second half from Moylan who scored two tries, had one line break and busted five tackles.

1. Brock Lamb

Tough choice. Lots of deserved players from Newcastle including Sione Mata'utia, Jaelen Feeney, Daniel Saifiti and Danny Levi. Yet, Lamb was critical in establishing Newcastle's early 14-0 lead, scoring a try and directing his side around very professionally.