RUGGED Knights back-rower Mitch Barnett was sent off for an alleged elbow as Newcastle suffered their first loss of the NRL season, 38-20 to Penrith Panthers in Bathurst on Saturday.
With Newcastle leading the defending champions 6-4 late in the first half, Barnett was involved in a collision off the ball with Penrith forward Chris Smith.
Smith stayed down for several tackles before referee Peter Gough stopped play, and after consulting with the bunker, ordered Barnett from the field.
The fiery forward exchanged words with several Penrith opponents before he made his way up the players' tunnel.
Smith was helped from the field and subsequently failed his head-injury assessment.
Barnett became the first Newcastle player to be sent off since Kade Snowden for a high tackle in 2013 that left North Queensland hooker Ray Thompson with a broken jaw.
Snowden was suspended for seven weeks.
The dismissal of Barnett left the Knights one man short for 47 minutes, and Penrith wasted no time in making them pay.
Panthers centre Stephen Crichton added two points from the resulting penalty to level scores at 6-all, then four minutes later winger Taylan May scored his second try of the match.
May opened the scoring in the eighth minute after winning the race to ground a Jarome Luai grubber kick, but the Knights grabbed the lead 12 minutes later when winger Dominic Young scored his third try in as many games this season and Jake Clifford converted.
Even after they were reduced to 12 men, Newcastle kept the Panthers honest.
Penrith 12-6 at half-time and increased their lead 10 minutes after the break with a try by centre Izack Tago.
Newcastle hit back in the 54th minute when fullback Tex Hoy, deputising for the injured Kalyn Ponga, broke through to score a fine solo try.
Clifford converted from the sideline to reduce Newcastle's deficit to 18-12.
Three minutes later, Tago scored his second try of the game, followed soon after by a Crichton try.
The Knights refused to throw in the towel, responding with tries by Bradman Best and Enari Tuala in the 64th and 72nd minutes respectively.
May crossed for his hat-trick three minutes from full-time, then Charlie Staines scored on the opposite flank.
A record crowd of 11,253 turned out for the annual game at Bathurst's Carrington Park.
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