Knights v Panthers: Five key points
The Newcastle Knights scored a 26-14 victory over last year's preliminary finalists in the Panthers to keep their undefeated record intact and take outright position atop the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder. These are five key points from the fixture.
The Knights keep bucking trends
Newcastle have won their last seven games at home and have been victorious the past six times they have run out onto a rugby league field, but there was another achievement the club notched on Saturday afternoon and it involved all three grades. Not once this season have all three grades recorded victories on the same day – in fact every round in 2015 so far has seen exactly two of Newcastle's sides win.
Yet on a day which gave a 'Voice for Miners' in the Hunter on an absolutely stunning afternoon in Newcastle, the Knights killed it.
The Holden Cup side led by captain Danny Levi produced a 34-8 win while a Chad Redman penalty goal after the siren saw the NSW Cup team record an 18-16 win in what was a fantastic grand final rematch from last season.
Penrith's first 20 minutes were "forgettable"
Following the loss, Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and captain Peter Wallace admitted they believed the game was all but over in the first 20 minutes.
Three tries, from Adam Clydsdale, Chris Houston and Newcastle captain Kurt Gidley, saw the away team looking hard-pressed to win from the get-go.
It left Cleary to tell reporters he'd "rather forget" about the first quarter of the game.
"I definitely thought we were a chance to [win afterwards]. But the problem starting like that is you are trying to catch up though we certainly had our chances," Clearly said.
"But when you're in that catch-up mindset you're probably not as clinical as you should be I suppose. Look, I thought we were a chance with three minutes to go – but it just wasn't to be."
Jamie Soward's importance is obvious in his absence
Matt Moylan isn't even half as effective without his partner in crime Jamie Soward.
While Wallace and Moylan did their absolute best to steer the ship around, the Panthers looked lost and unorderly when it came to their attack.
Throw in the fact James Segeyaro (lip) and Soward's replacement Isaac John (quad) were missing and it's hard not to think that Penrith are in for a couple of more lean weeks without their chief playmaker.
Especially when they produced 200 metres and 20 offloads more than Newcastle.
However, according to Cleary, their absence "wasn't the reason the first 20 minutes happened".
Kurt Gidley has a spring in his step
Newcastle captain Gidley looks happy in his preferred position of fullback, but most importantly the former NSW and Australia representative looks, above all, settled.
After earning man-of-the-match honours last weekend against the Titans, Gidley backed it up against Penrith with a try and 108 metres and even he couldn't help but admit he loves being back where he belongs.
"It's tough, I feel sore and I'm feeling knocked around but that's exactly the way you want to feel after a game. I was so proud of all the guys today – it was a big game and our biggest game this year so far," Gidley said.
"I think after three wins, people's expectations were higher and I think we delivered today."
Newcastle Knights – finals bound?
NRL.com might be going off early here, but it is hard to ignore statistics when it comes to the Knights' finals chances.
Courtesy of Andrew Voss earlier in the week, of the 32 teams to start a season 3-0 – let alone 4-0 – since the inception of the NRL in 1998, four have won the grand final, three have finished runners up, and 18 more have made the playoffs. Only six of these 32 sides have missed the finals.
But wait, there's more!
Against Penrith, the Knights recorded their fourth-straight win to kick off their season – the first time they have done so since 2002.
In that particular season Newcastle tied first on points and lost the minor premiership to the Warriors on for-and-against.
Newcastle also started off the 1995 and 1998 seasons with a 4-0 start to the year as well and you better believe the Knights made the finals in those seasons too.