KNIGHTS coach Nathan Brown admitted his team were outmuscled and outsmarted on Friday night by a Penrith outfit he expects to progress deep into the play-offs.
The injury-hit Panthers, minus big names Nathan Cleary (knee), Josh Mansour (cheek), Waqa Blake (ankle), Sam McKendry (knee), Dylan Edwards (shoulder) and Moses Leota (pectoral), won 29-18 at McDonald Jones Stadium to climb to second on the ladder.
Brown felt his players put in enough effort to win, but he was left ruing some costly moments of ill-discipline, in particular a penalty in possession that robbed Newcastle of a try.
He also felt the Knights struggled to cope with the sheer size of Penrith’s forwards and their aggressive line speed.
“The team that beat us tonight, I think Penrith will be playing very late in September if they can have a bit of luck with injury,” Brown said.
“I think they’ll be going a long way into the back end of the year, so we never got beaten by dummies.
“But it’s the way with which we lost that disappoints me. Our younger players … they’ve got to understand what they’re doing to the team when they do those poor acts of discipline.”
In particular, Brown was shaking his head at a 30th-minute brain snap by five-eighth Connor Watson that proved a turning point.
Watson scored Newcastle’s opening try to get them back in the game after the Panthers raced to a 12-0 lead, but 10 minutes later he was penalised for impeding Penrith defender Tyrone Phillips, just when Daniel Saifiti appeared to have crashed over the line.
Three minutes later, Watson threw a wayward pass that was intercepted by Penrith five-eighth Tyrone Peachey, who broke clear and sent fullback Dallin Watene-Zalezniak over to score.
A possible 12-all scoreline instead became 18-6 to the visitors at half-time.
The Knights rallied after the interval, and when halfback Brock Lamb created a try for fullback Kalyn Ponga in the 54th minute, it was a six-point ball game.
But then Panthers playmaker James Maloney kicked a field goal, a penalty and set up a try for Corey Harawira-Naera to leave the Knights facing an insurmountable task. “If Jimmy Maloney was playing for us, we probably would have won,” Brown said.
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