The Panthers gave James Maloney the perfect send off in a 54-10 thrashing at Panthers Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Both sides had chances in the opening stages but it wasn’t until the 20th minute when Starford To’a took an intercept 60 metres to score. The Panthers bounced back 4 minutes later when Nathan Cleary broke through the line to score under the posts to make it 6-4. Brian To’o extended the lead before Cleary added his second to give the Panthers an 18-4 lead at the break.
The Knights got off to the perfect start in the second half when Herman Ese’ese crashed over, but that was to be the last bright spot in a sorry day for the Knights. Billy Burns scored his first try in the NRL when he snatched a Cleary cross field kick before a stunning try two minutes later. Wayde Egan capped off a line break on the half way line, the benefactor of a brilliant Viliame Kikau flick pass on the sideline. The onslaught continued when Moses Leota strolled over to score under the posts. Cleary then got his hat-trick in the 62nd minute, Billy Burns scored his second for the day just three minutes later before Cleary capped off a stunning day, backing up a James Tamou break to make it 4 tries and 34 points in a starring performance.
Cleary’s Club Record
In James Maloney’s last NRL game, it was his halves partner that stole the show. Cleary was a threat every time he touched the ball, scoring two brilliant solo tries before adding another two by backing up his teammates.
A perfect day with the boot gave him 34 points for the day, a Panthers club record. It’s a performance that will have to give himself, the club, and its fans confidence heading into 2020 and beyond.
Disappointing Season but Bright Finish
It was a tough season for the Panthers. A horror start, then seven straight wins to give them some hope, before crashing back to earth towards the latter stages of the year.
The Panthers were tipped by many to make the top four so it’s a disappointing year overall for the mountain men, but they showed what they are capable of in Sunday’s performance. With the majority of the current team still at the club next year, they will be hoping for a much better season.
Horror End for Knights
Similar to the Panthers, many fans and experts alike were tipping big things for the Knights in 2019. A mid-season resurgence gave fans some high hopes, but it was a horror finish to the year, their season imploding in their loss to the Tigers a fortnight ago before Sunday’s performance against the Panthers.
Just eight points down in the early stages of the second half, the game was in the balance, but it looked as if the players had given up, with the Panthers running rampant with six tries in the second half. It’s back to the drawing board for the Knights who are officially on the look out for a new coach in 2020.
With two premierships, two State of Origin series victories, and three Tests for Australia, there isn’t anything that James Maloney hasn’t achieved in rugby league.
He played second fiddle to Nathan Cleary in Sunday’s dominant win, but it was a fitting end for a player that has been one of the NRL’s brightest stars since he made his debut 10 years ago. The Catalans Dragons are sure to benefit from his addition, and there won’t be many people who can’t recognise his contribution to the game.
Penrith Panthers 54
Tries: Nathan Cleary (4), Billy Burns (2), Brian To’o, Wayde Egan, Moses Leota
Goals: Cleary 9/9
Newcastle Knights 10
Tries: Starford To’a, Herman Ese’ese
Goals: Mason Lino 1/2
Penrith Panthers: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Stephen Crichton, 3 Dean Whare, 14 Jarome Luai, 5 Brian To’o, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Wayde Egan, 10 Moses Leota, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Liam Martin, 13 James Fisher-Harris. Interchange: 15 Spencer Leniu, 16 Billy Burns, 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 18 Sione Katoa.
Newcastle Knights: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Bradman Best, 3 Sione Mata’utia, 4 Hymel Hunt, 21 Starford To’a, 6 Mason Lino, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 David Klemmer, 9 Connor Watson, 10 Daniel Saifiti, 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 12 Mitchell Barnett, 16 Josh King. Interchange: 14 Kurt Mann, 15 Herman Ese’ese, 17 Aidan Guerra, 18 Jacob Saifiti.