A gritty but sloppy Panthers side managed to do just enough to outlast a valiant Newcastle side 16-14 at McDonald Jones Stadium in Round 2 of the NRL.
An ill-disciplined first half saw Penrith turn over far too much ball due to silly penalties or clumsy ball control. Newcastle ended the half being guilty of the same issues.
Despite those frustrations, there was still some good play in the opening stanza. After a 9th minute penalty goal to Kalyn Ponga, Penrith were the first side to get across the stripe in the 19th minute, after a magical piece of play by James Maloney.
Maloney faked to kick, passed to Cleary who ran right before dumping the ball back behind him to Fisher-Harris who ran hard and straight back in towards the posts to storm over for a good try. Cleary was unable to convert.
Just shy of the half hour mark, Newcastle hit back when Ponga threw a lovely cut-out pass that put the ball flush on Lee's chest and he scored in the corner. Ponga converted from touch.
Less than five minutes later, Penrith struck back with an amazing try. Cleary grubbered and it looked to be going dead for all money, but it popped up nicely. Watene-Zelezniak leapt up and batted the ball back into the field of play for Winterstein who planted the loose ball for a try. Cleary again converted.
The Knights received a penalty right on halftime but Ponga was unable to kick the penalty goal from 35 metres out. At halftime Penrith had a 10-8 lead.
Penrith struck first after the break through Isaah Yeo, who made a good run off a nothing inside ball from Maloney, met the defence 7 metres from the Knights line, but he just kept pushing before twisting and reaching out to score next to the uprights. Cleary converted to extend the Panthers lead to 8 points.
With 7 minutes left on the clock and after Penrith had given away three quick penalties on their own line, Mitch Barnett stormed onto a pass and bashed and crashed his way through the defence and over the line to score near the posts. Ponga converted to reduce the Knights deficit to just 2 points.
However, neither side could add to their scores and the Panthers hung on for a hard-fought victory.