Knights scrape past Panthers to stay alive
Jake Mamo was the star for Newcastle as they clinched a tight 15-14 win over Penrith in the second round of matches at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
A Mata'utia double act opened the scoring for the Knights as Pat kicked ahead for brother Chanel to score in the corner.
A Bryce Cartwright grubber then forced a Newcastle dropout and from there Penrith's next gen combined as Te Maire Martin fed a ball to Zach Dockar-Clay who showed great skill to step through the Knights' defensive line.
Newcastle's own next gen hit back shortly after as Jaelen Feeney kicked ahead for Mamo, who toed it into the in-goal and won the race to the ball to reclaim the lead 8-6 at the break.
A brilliant solo try from Mamo opened proceedings in the second half, surging through the Panthers' line out wide before cutting back in to earn a bonus zone try.
A brilliant downfield kick from Cartwright in his own end at the start of the tackle count surprised everyone but Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who charged downfield to regain possession and skipper Jeremy Latimore barged over from the next play to get his side back in the contest.
A lost ball from Chanel Mata'utia then allowed Robert Jennings to streak away and get his side back within a point of Newcastle but the Knights were able to hold on for the final two minutes.
Mamo said he was using the Auckland Nines as a way to impress new Knights coach Nathan Brown.
"It's been a great pre-season so far, and the Nines is a fun tournament, but it's also an opportunity to show Brownie what I can and all the other boys are trying to show him what they can do," Mamo told NRL.com.
"Hopefully I can put my best foot forward and impress him. It's an audition for us, we're fighting each other and we're the best of mates too but we all want to play first grade."
Panther Will Smith said his team would bounce back on Sunday against reigning NRL premiers North Queensland, with both finals spots for the group still up for grabs.
"I thought we might have had a bit more better football in us, it seemed like we just blew the cobwebs out in the first game and left it at that," Smith told NRL.com.
"We should be right tomorrow, we'll get a fresh start and it should be good."
Newcastle Knights 15 (Mamo 2, P Mata'utia tries) def Penrith Panthers 14 (Dockar-Clay, Latimore, Jennings tries)