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2021 NRL Round Seven, Panthers 24 Knights 6 – Report

Shannon Meyer reviews Penrith maintaining their 100% record for the season with their seventh consecutive win in a decent contest over the Knights.

SCOREBOARD

Panthers 24

Tries: Stephen Crichton (4), Matt Burton (18), Dylan Edwards (67), Brian To’o (74)

Goals: Nathan Cleary (20, 62 – pen, 68, 76)

Knights 6

Tries: Starford To’a (29)

Goals: Kalyn Ponga (30)

Player of the Year Points

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3 pts – James Fisher-Harris (Penrith)
2 pts – Brian To’o (Penrith)
1 pt – Jarome Luai (Penrith)

MATCH REPORT

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1st Half

After a hard-fought but entertaining first few minutes, Penrith were first to score, and no surprise it was their halfback Nathan Cleary involved. After a good attacking set, and a threat of a Kikau break down the left, Cleary provided the perfect grubber kick to the right corner where Stephen Crichton out-muscled the Knights chasers to grab the ball and score the first try of the night. The conversion was missed by Cleary and the score remained 4-0.

Next it was Newcastle’s turn to pressure the Panthers line, with consecutive sets and a Kalyn Ponga looking dangerous, but it came to an underwhelming end on the third set with a simple error. But the Knights were well and truly in the contest against the competition’s best team.

The Panthers threatened to score again with Viliame Kikau in prime position to barge through the Knights’ defence close to the line, but he made Penrith’s first mistake of the night with points going begging.

Penrith doubled their lead just before the 20th minute as they went left to Jarome Luai, and with a lurking Kikau looming, the Penrith five eighth went short to Matt Burton who burst through the Knights’ defence to score from 10 metres out. The successful conversion made it 10-0.

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Against the run of play (to a degree) Kurt Mann got inside his game-long rival Kikau and then provided the perfect offload for Knights winger Starford To’a to charge 50 metres down the right: a big left-hand fend on Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards was the end of the Panthers’ resistance and Newcastle had their first try of the night. A sideline conversion from Ponga made it 10-6.

The Knights seemed to kick it up a gear after that and the final minutes of the first half were entertaining if not overflowing with points.

This was another quality Thursday night clash, and anyone’s game going into the final 40 minutes. Although you got the feeling it would need a little more Ponga magic if Newcastle were to overcome the Panthers’ stars.

HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 10 Newcastle Knights 6

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2nd Half

Newcastle carried on the momentum of the first 40 minutes in the opening exchanges of the second half on the back of set restarts and penalties, but the Panthers held on.

Not long after it was Penrith’s turn to ride down field on the back of penalties and set restarts and they went close to extending their lead when Brian To’o attempted to score in the left corner. The try attempt turned into a Newcastle penalty after the video referee called a double movement.

Ten second half minutes had gone and the score remained 10-6.

Penrith went close five minutes later through Crichton and Charlie Staines down the right but a sharp offload went to ground.

Penrith looked certain to score in the 60th minute after a dangerous Luai run down the left, but the final pass inside was knocked down by Mann when Burton looked set to score his second of the night. Penrith were looking the most likely to score next as momentum was building.

They had an opportunity to keep pressing the Knights’ line in the 62nd minute when an offside penalty was given after Ponga didn’t attempt to catch a bomb. But the instruction came from the bench to take two points, which is exactly what the halfback did and the lead grew to 12-6.

A few minutes later the Knights failed to attempt a catch on a bomb again, and Burton was unable to hold onto the rebounding ball and another chance went begging. You got the feeling that the next non-attempt to catch a bomb would be punished in full. The next set an attempt on catching a bomb was made and it was spilled by Brayden Musgrove.

A scrum for Penrith 10 metres out and in front awaited, and the Panthers scored from the very first play from it, as Isiah Yeo picked the ball up from the base of the scrum and found Edwards on the inside: he was barely touched as he scored beside the posts on his return from injury. The easy conversion slotted made it 18-6.

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Newcastle nearly turned a short kick-off into a try-scoring rebuttal but the Penrith cover defence was too good for To’a a few plays later. But Newcastle hadn’t given up: they managed to push Edwards into touch on the first play from the kick of their next attacking set. It fizzled out again and the Knights were running out of time.

After a penalty against David Klemmer for a high shot on To’o (which saw the Newcastle forward put on report), the man on the receiving end scored in the left corner from the ensuing set. Not for the first time in the second half the Panthers went left to Luai and then some great quick hands from Kikau to To’o saw the blockbusting winger dive to perfection and score the game-sealer for Penrith. Just for good measure Cleary nailed the sideline conversion.

The scoreboard may have shown a comfortable Penrith win on the night, but the undefeated Panthers were given a decent contest by Newcastle, who possibly just lacked that little extra magic that a side in the form of Penrith have right now. In saying that, Penrith could have won by plenty more with a little better finishing.

Call them arrogant, but one should admit they are a great team to watch; but all the consecutive regular season wins will be a waste if they can’t turn that into a premiership come October.

FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 24 Newcastle Knights 6

Injuries

to be advised

Match Review Committee

David Klemmer (Knights) – Grade 1 High Tackle Careless – Early Guilty Plea $1600 fine.

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