Penrith Panthers 30
Tries: Tyrone Peachey (2), Will Smith, Dean Whare, Josh Mansour
Goals: Will Smith (4/5), David Simmons (1/1)

Newcastle Knights 12
Tries: Clint Newton, Jake Mamo
Goals: Tyrone Roberts (2/2)

In the final game for both the Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights, with no finals football on offer the next best thing was avoiding the wooden spoon – something that was all but guaranteed for whichever team failed to fight their way to victory.

The Panthers fielded a team comprised of two debutants, and their eleventh halves combination of the season, captained by their retiring winger David Simmons, one of many to captain the side throughout the season as injury struck down one player after another. The Knights, likewise, sent out a team that had struggled with the twenty five rounds passed, captained by club favourite and Super League-bound Kurt Gidley.

The Panthers showed their determination from the outset, with Will Smith showing dazzling footwork and speed before crossing for only his second NRL try (the first being scored just last week) in the fourth minute. He converted his own try, and by the fifth minute the score sat at 6 – 0, much to the delight of the near nine-thousand strong crowd.

The tug of war continued for fifteen minutes, before Tariq Sims conceded a penalty after hit on Segeyaro close to the line, in perfect position for Will Smith to capitalise and take an easy additional two points.

Incensed, Newcastle kicked their game up a gear, and former Penrith stalwart Clint Newtown barged over the line off a short pass to put the first of their points on the board, converted with ease by Tyrone Roberts, bringing the scoreline back to 8 – 6 in the 27th minute. Only minutes later, veteran David Simmons was denied a try by some frantic wing defence and an uncooperative sideline.

In a sign that Penrith had relinquished some of their control, the electric young fullback Jake Mamo showed his worth to the Knights by plucking a well-placed Roberts’ kick from the air only two metres out, and planting it beside the goal posts in perfect position for Roberts to add the icing to the cake with another two points. The half time break saw the Knights clutching a four point lead, at 12 – 8.

Five minutes into the second half, Penrith showed what fight they had left, with returning centre Dean Whare running a beautiful line of a short pass from stand-in halfbackApisai Koroisau, and allowing no resistance from Knights defenders in his pursuit of a try. Post-conversion, Panthers were back in the lead by a narrow two points.

Only four minutes later, debutant Chris Smith pulled off a wonderful intercept and ran eighty metres before being pulled down by a determined and valiant Tyrone Roberts, only for the equally agile Tyrone Roberts to receive the ball in the next play, and taking the ball directly over the line for a try of his own. Will Smith added the extras, and at 20 – 12 in the 52nd minute, the game was far from over.

Tensions spilled over in an ugly push-and-shove battle in the 64th minute, as every player on the field got involved in a tussle that started over little more than an in-tackle quibble. Despite Newcastle’s best efforts, Josh Mansour crossed for a try off a well-executed backline play in the 70th minute, and with Will Smith missing his first goal of the day, the Knights fell two converted tries behind with only ten minutes remaining to make a statement.

The seventy seventh minute left little hope, and a runaway Tyrone Peachey scored his second try of the day, ensuring that his team wouldn’t finish at the bottom of the NRL ladder. The final conversion of the day was fittingly taken by David Simmons, to end the game with the Panthers victorious 30 – 12.