Penrith have consolidated their position in the top eight, winning their fourth game in a row in convincing style to defeat Newcastle 44-6 at Pepper Stadium.
Despite the late withdrawal of Panthers hooker James Segeyaro, with some speculation suggesting that he may have played his last game for the club, Penrith, led by Jamie Soward who scored one try, had a hand in four more and converted six goals for a personal haul of sixteen points, were far too strong for the defending premiers, who still find themselves languishing at the bottom of the table.
The Knights weren’t helped with the late withdrawal of experienced prop Jack Stockwell but with the likes of Akuila Uate, Pat Mata’utia, Pauli Pauli, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and David Bhana in their line-up, they were expected to provide some stiff resistance to the home team.
But after Penrith led 16-6 at half-time, a burst of three converted tries inside the opening 15 minutes of the second half put the result beyond doubt.
The win may have come with a cost for Penrith with Junior Kangaroo, Tyrone May taken from the field during the first half with a leg injury.
Penrith were first to score after 10 minutes when Soward shifted play left, enabling Smith to isolate Pauli Pauli in defence before going on a mazy run to beat another four defenders to score behind the posts.
The Panthers’ advantage was soon doubled when Soward took play right, finding Dylan Edwards before his cut-out pass enabled Watene-Zelezniak to score in the corner for the first of his three tries.
The Knights’ right-edge defence was caught napping again just before the half-hour mark when Soward and George Jennings combined for Watene-Zelezniak to again score in the right corner to extend Penrith’s lead out to 16.
The Knights had struggled to maintain possession throughout the half, but finally opened their account just before half-time when former Panther, Ryan Walker crossed over out wide and with Donovan’s conversion, Newcastle went into the sheds at the break trailing 16-6.
But any chance of the Knights had of making further inroads into Penrith’s lead soon evaporated after the break with the Panthers scoring three converted tries in eight minutes.
Dockar-Clay provided a peach of a pass for Corey Harawira-Naera to score under the posts, before Pauli’s attempted cut-out pass instead found the safe hands of Josh Hall, who streaked 90 metres to score untouched.
In the next set, Soward’s 40-20 kick enabled the Panthers half to score a well-deserved try after his opposing half, Jack Kelly, fumbled a kick return close to his own tryline.
Over the next 20 minutes, the Knights showed plenty of desperation to add to their score but were unable to convert their opportunities into points, despite receiving five straight penalties from referee Liam Nicholls along with several repeat sets from Penrith errors.
Newcastle were made to pay for those missed chances when Penrith recovered late to score two tries.
Malakai Watene-Zelezniak completed his second hat-trick in as many games against the Knights, after taking Soward’s cross-field kick before Paea Pua scored off the last play of the game to give Penrith their resounding victory.
Next Saturday the Panthers have partnered with feeder club St Marys to take their home game against the high-flying Jets to St Marys Stadium as part of a three-game program, while Newcastle return to Hunter Stadium when they host the Illawarra Cutters.