Piling on 36 points in the second half, Penrith's 42-6 win over the Newcastle Knights on Sunday saw the Panthers buck the trend of finals hopefuls losing in Round 23 of the Telstra Premiership, while handing the Knights their 15th-straight loss.
Panthers unleash in the second half
Penrith were lucky to head into the half-time break at 6-all considering their severe lack of possession and string of ill-discipline. Newcastle were the better of the two in the first 40, but like many times previously this year, half-time proved their biggest enemy. The Panthers' six second half tries were as soft as they come with skipper Matt Moylan and wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Josh Mansour running riot.
"Clearly we dug a bit of a hole for ourselves at times with our discipline with the ball but across the game we had really good energy," Panthers coach Anthony Griffin said post-game.
"Our defence was probably as good as it's been all year and it's nice to get it done in Newcastle. We tried to force our hand too much at times but it was good our defence could allow that."
Finals path becomes clearer for Penrith
The Panthers are now in the box seat for a finals berth. With the Wests Tigers pipped at the post by a Titans field goal and the Warriors copping a hiding at the hands of the Rabbitohs, the Panthers are currently above the logjam of teams vying for eighth position. With the Dragons winning Saturday's local derby against the Sharks and reigning premiers North Queensland falling to the Roosters, there's sure to be a few twist and turns yet.
"It was really important to win this one. At this time of year, if you're in contention, every week is important," Griffin said.
"It's like you're playing semi-finals early. The prize gets a bit bigger and bigger every week and I was really happy for them in the way they responded in the second half."
Knights running dry of excuses
The Knights named their strongest possible side to face the Panthers and didn't perform. There's no denying they have a young squad but for any club to concede 36 points in the NRL within a half of football is inexcusable. The Knights' 15th-consecutive loss left Nathan Brown to claim his players had given up.
"It's up there with our most disappointing performance of the year. We had been making decent progress of late. You take one or two recent games out, there were some really good performances where we competed hard and fought hard," Brown said.
"I'll defend a lot of the boys to the hilltops but this game was a back-breaker for us with what we have done in the second half."
The maiden shot clock penalty
Veteran Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen had the unfortunate honour of being the first player penalised for a shot clock infringement. It came in the eighth minute – hardly a time to be wasting time – and came as much a shock to him as the players around him. Kicking the ball as the 35-second shot clock sounded, referee Dave Munro had no hesitations about handing Penrith the ball 10 metres out from their own try-line.
Knights fail to match club trend
The Newcastle NRL side couldn't do what their two lower grade teams managed when they came up against the Panthers. The Knights' Holden Cup outfit kept their slender finals hopes by beating the ladder-leading Panthers to end a six-game losing run. A victory for Penrith's under-20s would've sealed the minor premiership but they were instead dealt their third loss of the year. The Intrust Super Premiership side's efforts were even more impressive. Their 62-26 win over the Sea Eagles ended their 15-game losing streak in remarkable fashion.