Panthers v Knights: Five key points
Penrith's big men roll forward, Newcastle's disappointment, and a rare play-the-ball error. Key points from the Panthers' big win over the Knights on Friday night.
Panthers rolling forward
A season-high 1963 metres from the Panthers put the Knights to the sword with City Origin representative Reagan Campbell-Gillard pumping out a game-high 207 metres on his own. In a dominant sign of just how much the Panthers controlled the game, ten of the starting 13 ran for over 100 metres with Nathan Ross and Ken Sio's long-range breaks helping them over the century mark.
Another try for an NRL debutant
New Zealand born Corey Harawira-Naera was another debutant blooded in Anthony Griffin's side for 2017 after the Panthers coach rewarded Viliame Kikau with his first NRL start against the Wests Tigers in Round 2. The 21-year-old had a blinder of a game scoring in the 23rd minute and setting up another before leaving the field with severe cramp late in the second half. With no certainty Bryce Cartwright will return against the Storm on Saturday and the injury to Kiwi international James Fisher-Harris, the Panthers have again found a handy replacement, and another with a hyphen in Harawira-Naera.
Step backwards for Knights
After three promising games from the Knights to begin the year, their performance against the Panthers has brought the visitors back down to earth after failing to register a point at Pepper Stadium and conceding a heavy amount. It was the first time the Novocastrians have been kept to zero and was their biggest losing margin between the two sides since the Knights entered the competition in 1988. With another game on the road next week against the Sharks, it does not get any easier as the premiers put 62 on Nathan Brown's outfit in the corresponding game last season.
Panthers halves click into gear
The form of Te Maire Martin and Nathan Cleary against the Knights suggests the combination has come together nicely after a rollercoaster of a start to the season for the Panthers. It was a breakout game for Martin after returning from season-ending shoulder surgery who had a field day against the Knights, running on a number of occasions and going over for his first try of the 2017 Telstra Premiership. Their next test could prove their toughest yet… the Storm in Melbourne with Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith running the show.
Ross's play-the-ball error
There was a moment in the second half that just summed up the game, and perhaps the last two seasons for the Knights, who went close through Ken Sio but a forward pass from rookie Sam Stone was called by the touch judge.
Opposite Knights winger Nathan Ross scooped up a loose kick and raced 70 metres down field before being brought down by a high-flying Te Maire Martin. The only problem for Ross though was that there was not one Knights teammate in sight. The 28-year-old could have played the ball to himself several times before another player came in at dummy-half.
As a result, Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak dived on the ball after waiting three seconds, with Griffin's men holding the Knights to nil.