SPORTINGBET STADIUM, SAT 8TH MARCH
Newcastle prevail over fumbling Panthers
Pre-season NSW Cup competition favourites, the Penrith Panthers have gone down 24-14 in somewhat of a shock result against a relatively inexperienced Newcastle NSW Cup side featuring just 5 players with NRL experience, played in hot humid conditions at SportingBet Stadium.
Two of Newcastle’s five tries having considerable doubt as to the validity of those tries awarded by Liam Nicholls, but nonetheless Penrith did not do themselves any favours with a poor completion rate that would not have pleased coach Garth Brennan, who has now yet to defeat his former coaching colleague from his Newcastle days, Rick Stone, in two meetings.
Much of the pre-game hype surrounded Garth Brennan’s decision to hand a debut to SG Ball centre, Robert Jennings, replacing Isaah Yeo who was called up to make his NRL debut while the Knights were boosted by the late inclusion of experienced prop Davd Faa’logo.
Newcastle’s early domination of possession largely the result of poor handling & some early penalties allowed the Knights to score twice through winger Chanel Mata’utia in the opening 15 minutes of the game to lead 10 nil. The first try resulted from a quick spread left where the Knights had a clear overlap on Penrith’s right edge but despite the last pass to the winger looking decidedly forward, Liam Nicholls awarded the try. The second try came from a Tyler Randall cross field kick brilliantly regathered by the Newcastle winger.
Newcastle may have dominated the first twenty minutes of the half but Penrith certainly came into their own in the second twenty dominating possession & territory. A near try in the Eddie Aiono in the left corner in the 27th minute, allowed the Panthers to shift the ball back to the right on the next play where Nathan Smith provided a sublime pass to Will Smith, who steamed into a yawning gap to score next to the posts from 10m out to reduce the gap to 6 points with the missed conversion.
Four minute later the Panthers were in again this time through winger Eddie Aiono after a quick spread left allowed Tom Eisenhuth to lob a pass to the winger allowing Aiono enough space to score in the left corner & with the successful Will Smith conversion from the sideline, scores were level at 10-10 & remained that way to half time.
Newcastle came out the quicker after half time to quickly open up an 18-10 lead on the Panthers courtesy of two quick tries within the first ten minutes of the half. The first to centre Pat Mata’utia retrieving a Matt Minto grubber in the in-goal looked to be another suspect decision from Liam Nicholls as replays suggested the ball was lost in the process of grounding it. The second try to winger Josh Mantellato came after a Panthers error close to their try line provided good territory for the Knights who were able to shift right where Pat Mata’utia provided a neat flick pass to his outside man who went over to score in the right corner virtually untouched.
Penrith continued to struggle maintaining possession in good field position & were further punished in the 61st minute when the Panthers failed to defuse a Minto cross field kick which ended in the hands of Toka Likiliki who was able to offload back to his half who in turn put an unmarked Chanel Mata’utia in for his hat-trick, scoring in the left corner from close range. Josh Mantellato’s sideline conversion pushing the Knights out to the biggest lead of the game at 24-10.
To their credit the Panthers didn’t throw in the towel & were rewarded with a try in the 68th minute to centre Tom Eisenhuth after a quick shift left close to the line allowed the rangy centre to skip past a few Knights defenders to score out wide left. Will Smith’s failed conversion left the score at 24-14. Newcastle’s ability to dominate possession & control the game allowed them to run out comfortable winners 24-14. The Panthers were best served by Ryan Simpkins & Will Smith who showed some promise playing against his former club for the first time, while for the Knights, Matt Minto showed plenty of promise in his NSW Cup debut for the club, combining well with Tyler Randall as a makeshift halves pairing while the Mata’utia brothers, Chanel & Pat along with Toka Likiliki & skipper Matt Hilder also turned in strong performances for the club.
FT: Newcastle 24 (T: C Mata’utia 3 P Mata’utia Mantellato G: Mantellato 2/5) defeated Penrith 14 (T: W Smith Aiono Eisenhuth G: W Smith 1/3)