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#VBNSWCup Review: Penrith Panthers 38 Newcastle Knights 16

The Penrith Panthers have come away from Cessnock to become only the 2nd team in 2 years to defeat the Knights at home in a hard-fought encounter that wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard thanks to a blistering final 20 minute period that saw an incredible 34 points turning a 16-4 deficit into a 38-16 win.

Both teams were forced into late changes; the Panthers forced to withdraw Isaah Yeo and Ryan Simpkins for first grade duties with Waqa Blake promoted from the Holden Cup squad to start in the centres which forced a reshuffle in the backs, most noticeably of which was Bryce Cartwright starting at five eighth. The Knights were without the services of Pat Vai Vai called up to make his NRL debut, replaced by Toka Likiliki, returning from injury.

The Panthers could not have gotten off to a worse start when in just the 2nd minute of play, Kiwi international, Isaac John, was forced out of the match with a suspected season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon. Fortunately for the Panthers there were plenty of options available to coach Garth Brennan to cover for the loss with Daniel Foster coming off the bench to take John’s place.

The Panthers pressed the Newcastle line early in the game on the back of several repeat sets provided by early Knights errors when in possession but their resolute defence was rewarded when Newcastle opened the scoring in the 15th minute after Likiliki went out to Penrith’s left edge from close range and stormed over for the try despite the best efforts of Cherrington and Will Smith to stop the big Tongan prop. Mantellato’s conversion gave the Knights a 6-0 lead somewhat against the run of play.

Shortly after it was Newcastle’s turn to suffer an injury when 3 try hero from their round 1 encounter, Chanel Mata’utia was forced out of the game with what appeared to be a rib injury. The Panthers were able to capitalise in the next set when a sweeping backline play back out to the right saw Waqa Blake put into a hole from 30m out before he put former Knight Kevin Naiqama in for the try in the right corner. Penrith back in the game trailing 6-4 after 20 minutes.

Newcastle started to dominate possession and territory throughout the remainder of the half but were unable to extend their lead during that period. An ankle injury forcing hooker Kierran Moseley from the field with five minutes remaining to half time threatened to derail the Panthers’ chances of victory and was the Panthers’ woes were soon compounded by some poor discipline which allowed Newcastle to head into the halftime break leading 8-4 thanks to the penalty goal conversion from 32m out by Mantellato.

The instructions from coach Gareth Brennan would have been pretty clear for his side to take Newcastle on up the middle instead of the side to side play that marred their first half performance but the it was the Knights who came out of the sheds the quicker scoring in the 44th minute through interchange forward Ben Tupou who stormed onto a short pass from Travis Waddell at dummy half, and going over for the try from close range and Mantellato’s conversion from out wide giving the Knights a handy 14-4 lead.

The Knights dominated territory and possession and the Panthers defence looked on the rack conceding numerous penalties yet a decision to take a penalty goal in the 53rd minute, ultimately proved to be the turning point of this game as it gave the Panthers renewed hope that perhaps the Knights were too sure on where their next points were coming from.

Having been starved of quality possession up until this point, a rare kick error from Michael Dobson inside his own 30m invited the Panthers to mount their comeback. Ben Murdoch Masila’s barnstorming individual try from 15m out was the catalyst for the next 20 minutes which saw the Panthers pile on 34 uncontested points that no-one inside Cessnock Showground would have saw coming. From the kick off the Panthers levelled the scores on the back of some strong hit-ups from Sam Anderson and Fijian international prop, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Moseley who was able to get back on the field, caught the Knights markers napping with a quick dart from half way before finding Bryce Cartwright who in turn provided a sub-lime offload to Waqa Blake to breakthrough Matt Minto’s attempted tackle to score and with Will Smith’s conversion, scores were suddenly tied 16-16.

Further repeat sets allowed the Panthers to finally hit the lead in the 67th minute when interchange forward, Vaipuna Tia Kilifi barged over from close range to score out wide and with the conversion giving the Panthers a 22-16 lead. The Panthers then from the next set scored again when more good work on halfway from Moseley allowed the hooker to make the half break before putting Luke Capewell in the clear before finding Kieran Moss backing up to score underneath the posts and the game was as good as gone for the Knights at 28-16.

The Panthers were done with yet thou and put the Knights to the sword in the final 5 minutes of the game. A chip kick from half way from Bryce Cartwright went into no man’s land before Waqa Blake was first to the ball to regather and sprint away to score in the right corner. Then on the stroke of full time, Sam Anderson’s huge workload for the game having played over 60 minutes was rewarded when the front rower barged through several tackles to force his way over from close range to complete the unlikely rout.

The Panthers now look forward to taking on the Canterbury Bulldogs next Friday night at Belmore Sports Ground while the Knights must now regroup after two heavy defeats when they play North Sydney at North Sydney Oval next Sunday afternoon.

PENRITH 38 (Tries: W Blake 2, K Naiqama, Murdoch-Masila, V Tia-Kilifi, Moss, Anderson Goals: W Smith 5/7) def. NEWCASTLE 16 (Tries: T Likiliki, B Tupou Goals Mantellato 4/4)


1. Matt Minto

2. Josh Mantellato

3. Brayden Williame

4. Pat Mata’utia

5. Chanel Mata’utia

6. Tyler Randall

7. Michael Dobson

8. Michael Steele

9. Travis Waddell

30. Toka Likiliki

25. James Elias

12. Dylan Hartin

13. Brenton Horwood

11. Ben Tupou

14. Chad Redman

15. Hayden Smith

27. Tuiala Togiatasi


6. Luke Capewell

2. Eto Nabuli

19. Waqa Blake

4. Will Smith

5. Kevin Naiqama

16. Bryce Cartwright

7. Isaac John

8. Sam Anderson

9. Kierran Moseley

10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard

11. Ben Murdoch-Masila

14. Nathan Smith

12. Anthony Cherrington

1. Kieran Moss

15. Daniel Foster

17. Vaipuna Tia Kilifi

18. Leilani Latu

Editor of nothingbutleague since site inception in 2013. Massive Penrith Panthers fan (Member 13120). Email:


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