The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Newcastle travelled to Sydney's west to take on the Panthers in round 16 of the Jersey Flegg competition.
After 9 minutes, as a result of plenty of ball in the right area of the field, the Panthers capitalised and opened the scoring through winger Matthew Forwood as he scored out wide. He converted his own try and the Panthers had established an early 6-0 lead. Newcastle clawed their way back into the game and after 13 minutes five-eight and captain Scott Dureau sliced through the Penrith defence and scored. Halfback Luke Walsh successfully added the extras and locked the scores at 6-6.
The next ten minutes was played in the middle third of the field between both teams 20 metre lines. Both teams were completing their sets and there were very few mistakes in this passage of play. In the 27th minute, the Knights scored their second try of the afternoon through second rower Mitchell Steel who crashed over under the crossbar. Luke Walsh, after throwing the final pass for the try successfully converted and Newcastle led 12-6.
Two minutes before halftime, Penrith winger Forwood scored his second try of the match and with the successful conversion had the teams going to halftime locked together at 12-12.
The first ten minutes of the second half was the toughest time of the match with plenty of solid tackles being made by either side. The Panthers crept ahead in the 49th minute when second rower Greg Brain scored beside the posts. Forwood once again added the conversion which put the Panthers up by 18-12 after 50 minutes. Within two minutes of conceding the try, the Knights hit straight back through hooker Daniel Bates who scored a magnificent solo try out wide which trimmed the deficit to two. Again Walsh added the extras and after 53 minutes the sides were once again locked. Three minutes later, after a great 40/20 kick by Scott Dureau, the Knights were on the attack. From the scrum, Dureau took the pass from halfback Walsh and sold a fantastic dummy to opposite five-eight Jarrod Sammut and then put on a left foot step which left the Panthers five-eight grabbing at thin air. Dureau scored under the posts and with Walsh's conversion the Knights led 24-18. The game was as good as over five minutes later when the Knights extended their lead to 28-18 when centre Alex McCosker crossed out wide. Walsh kept his perfect record intact with the conversion which made the score 30-18.
Just to put icing on the Newcastle cake, winger Aaron Hartmann scored on fulltime. This was after a bullet cut-out pass from Dureau to centre Brendan Hunt who pulled the Panthers winger in and then offloaded a perfect flick pass. Hartmann then had a saloon passage to the tryline. Walsh failed with his "banana kick"-type conversion from the western touchline which just landed short. This made the final score of Newcastle 34 defeated Penrith 18.
Standout player for the Knights was five-eight Scott Dureau with his two-try performance. Unfortunately, it appeared as though he suffered a strained medial ligament to his knee even though he finished the match. Fullback Sam Wooden and halfback Luke Walsh also deserve special mentions as they had strong games for the Knights.
Photo - Scott Dureau.