Knights continue unbeaten run
The Newcastle Knights have jumped to outright first on NRL Telstra Premiership ladder after a three-try blitz in the opening 20 minutes saw them record a 26-14 win over the Penrith Panthers at Hunter Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Knights v Panthers: Five key points
Satisfaction still a long way off: Knights
Cleary not worried by Knights' tactics
WATCH: Full match highlights
WATCH: Uate scores his 99th NRL try
WATCH: Knights press conference
WATCH: Panthers press conference
Match stats, scores, highlights
Penrith, who did everything but score when the game was on the line in the final eight minutes, stooped to their second consecutive loss against a rampant Newcastle outfit who prevailed despite running into a strong wind in the opening half.
On a day where Newcastle wore their hi-vis jerseys to celebrate the Hunter's own Voice for Mining Day, four tries were enough for the home side to claim their sixth-straight win, following a strong finish to 2014.
Following the game, Newcastle coach Rick Stone said he was content with his side's impressive start to the match.
"That first 20 minutes really set up our game. We played nice and direct and ran the footy with plenty of purpose. There was a bit of variation there too and to lead by 18 after 20 minutes is a massive boost in a game," Stone said.
In another cruel blow for the Panthers, the loss sees them drop to their 10th-straight loss when it comes to the following week's game after playing on Monday night.
Speaking after the match, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary didn't expect to see such a sluggish start from his side.
"You’re always concerned about the short turnaround after a big game last Monday night but I didn’t expect it to be that bad," Cleary said.
Penrith captain Peter Wallace added: "It was a terrible way to start and those first 20 minutes were pretty awful and that was the game over right there and then."
Chris Houston, who earned a late promotion to the starting side with Robbie Rochow ruled out in the warm up due to back spasms, crossed for the first try of the afternoon just left of the uprights to kick-off Newcastle's scoring plays after seven minutes.
Adam Clydsdale kept the ball rolling for Newcastle in the 15th minute when he forced his way through Penrith props Sam McKendry and Brent Kite to score from dummy half under the posts to push the Knights' lead to 12.
Four minutes later, it was captain Kurt Gidley earning the points for his team when he pushed his way past Peter Wallace then Matt Moylan to cap off a simplistic Newcastle backline shift.
Back-to-back penalties saw Josh Mansour ease Penrith's minds slightly when he caught a nicely thrown Moylan cut-out ball to cross out wide in the 25th minute for his first try of the season.
Wallace looked to have scored five minutes before half-time with momentum carrying him over the tryline, though the video referees agreed with referee Jared Maxwell's on-field decision by ruling it a double movement.
Up 18-4, and after a hugely challenging opening 10 minutes to the second stanza where they withheld a Penrith onslaught, the Knights were able to score in one of their first tastes of good territory in the 52nd minute through winger Akuila Uate, who crossed out wide to score his 99th career try.
Moylan's efforts off a scrum play to squeeze past Joey Leilua and Tyrone Roberts gave Penrith hope in the remaining 13 minutes and in the 72nd minute Dean Whare reduced the deficit to 10, running into a gaping hole left by Jarrod Mullen.
With three sets focused on attacking their try line, the Panthers did everything but score, as the Knights kicked a penalty goal to seal a 12-point win.
Newcastle Knights 26 (Chris Houston, Adam Clydsdale, Kurt Gidley, Akuila Uate Tries; Tyrone Roberts 5 Goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 14 (Josh Mansour, Matt Moylan, Dean Whare Tries; Matt Moylan 1 Goal) at Hunter Stadium. Crowd: 20,114. Half-time: Knights 18-4. On Report: N/A.