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The Newcastle Knights' Wayne Bennett era officially kicked off in Port Macquarie tonight when the Knights and Panthers fought out an entertaining 18-all draw in front of 6383 fans.
The match was a tough encounter with both sides scoring three tries apiece; the Knights through Matt Hilder, Kevin Naiqama and James McManus while for the Panthers, Michael Gordon, Travis Burns and youngster Blake Austin crossed the line.
The Panthers may have a slight worry with centre Michael Jennings believed to have been put on report, while the Knights will check the fitness of Tyrone Roberts after he left the field early in the final quarter.
The Knights preparations for 2012 continue at Muswellbrook next Saturday, while the Panthers face the Eels at CUA Stadium next Friday night.
Panthers 18 (Austin, Burns, Gordon tries; Gordon 3 goals) drew with
Knights 18 (Hilder, McManus, K Naiqama tries; Gidley 2, Roberts 1 goals)
at Port Macquarie Regional Stadium. Crowd: 6,383
Referees: Steve Lyons and Shayne Hayne; Touch Judges: Local Competition