Red-hot Panthers dominate Knights
A ruthless Penrith Panthers outfit has put the Newcastle Knights to the sword, demolishing the Novocastrians 40-0 at Pepper Stadium.
Anthony Griffin's men were impressive in the 80-minute performance, scoring seven unanswered tries and keeping the visitors to zero in a dominant showing before they turn their attention to competition leaders the Melbourne Storm next Saturday night.
It was the second time in 2017 the Panthers kept a team try-less for a game, after their Round 2 showing against the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown.
The Panthers led 22-0 at the break after running in four tries as the home side enjoyed 61 per cent of possession and ran a season-high 2048 metres in a true sign the forwards dominated the middle.
Knights prop Daniel Saifiti conceded the opening penalty of the game for the visitors and the Panthers took advantage with a Dean Whare flick-pass sending winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak over in the corner to open the scoring after three minutes.
The Kiwi international looked to be over again with a high shot from Josh Starling gifting the home side with further territory down field, however Watene-Zelezniak went into touch as he attempted to get the ball down.
Panthers skipper Matt Moylan looked to send Waqa Blake over on the opposite side of the field ten minutes later, but his trademark cut-out pass was intercepted by Knights winger Ken Sio who raced 60 metres down field, but the Knights would soon cough up the ball to turn over any momentum.
With the strong ratio of Telstra Premiership debutants going over in their first grade debut in 2017, it was no surprise to see 21-year-old Corey Hawrawira-Naera be the next to score after sliced through a gap to extend the Panthers' lead.
Ill-discipline cost the Knights in the opening half and a simple show-and-go from Te Maire Martin made things worse for the visitors as the Panthers five-eighth crossed to blow the lead out to 16.
Despite a huge hit from another NRL debutant – Joe Wardle – the Panthers were over again eight minutes before the break with the in-form Tyrone Peachey going over untouched.
Knights prop Jacob Saifiti left the field after six minutes of game time after a head clash with a hard-hitting Sitaleki Akauola, but returned in the second half after being cleared in a HIA assessment.
An early penalty goal from Nathan Cleary in the second half would push the Panthers' lead out to four converted tries.
A basketball pass from Knights rookie Sam Stone was ruled forward as the visitors looked to be over for their first of the game, before the young rookie slipped over in defence with Panthers veteran Peter Wallace burrowing under for the 32nd try of his Telstra Premiership career.
Griffin's men were not done with yet with a quarter of the game to go with Whare going over in the north-eastern corner following a six-again call that was touched by the Knights.
In a true sign the game was against them, Knights winger Nathan Ross was in open space for 70 metres before being tackled and playing the ball to no one with no teammate in sight.
Danny Levi was the next Knight to leave the field following a head knock but returned to the field to play out the final quarter of the game.
Cleary would cap off the night with a try of his own, carrying two Knights defenders over for his second four-pointer of the season as the Panthers romped to victory.
Panthers 40 (Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Corey Harawira-Naera, Te Maire Martin, Tyrone Peachey, Peter Wallace, Dean Whare, Nathan Cleary tries; Nathan Cleary 6 goals) defeated Knights 0 at Pepper Stadium. Crowd: 10,567. Half-time: Panthers 22-0.