Yo-yo season for the Panthers continues as they beat the Knights in a bizarre game.
Newcastle centre Joey Leilua produced two of the biggest gaffes of the season to hand Penrith a 32-10 win at Hunter Stadium which keeps the hapless Knights anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder.
A short first-half thunderstorm ushered in a bizarre afternoon of football in Newcastle, with Panthers full-back Matt Moylan setting up a miraculous try and teammate Nigel Plum managing to knock himself out and get put on report in the same tackle.
It was a scrappy victory for the Panthers, but their attacking players up the spine – Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Moylan and hooker James Segeyaro – showed enough class and energy to get the mountain men into the top eight and their season back on track.
The Knights on the other hand are in a deep hole after a third straight loss, and will remain dead last by the end of the round if Cronulla beat Parramatta on Monday night.
Newcastle was collectively lethargic and mistake-riddled, but Leilua came up with a pair of brain explosions which gave his side little chance of stopping the Panthers.
In the 20th minute, Wallace put in a grubber kick which looked certain to go dead, only for Moylan to sensationally leap into the air – fortuitously stepping on Darius Boyd’s shoulder to keep him off the ground – and batting the ball back into play.
Leilua was there to clean it up, but threw a ridiculous ball in his own in-goal, allowing Panthers winger David Simmons to touch down for a 10-4 lead.
The Panthers then scored on either side of half-time to stretch their advantage to 20-10 – Leilua offending again when he attempted a no-look flick-pass which went nowhere near its intended target – with Penrith centre Dean Whare scooping up and racing 75m untouched to put the game virtually beyond doubt.
Leilua was also bundled into touch and threw a ball over the sideline.
Next week the Knights travel to Brookvale Oval to tackle high-flying Manly, and if they fall to a fourth-straight defeat, their season will be nearly impossible to rescue.
Queensland Origin star Boyd looked pedestrian at full-back and Jarrod Mullen’s nice touches were to no avail.
Penrith is confident prop Plum is not seriously injured, despite being stretchered off the field and put in a neck brace after colliding with Mullen’s shoulder in a tackle attempt.
Despite coming off second best, Plum was placed on report for the reckless nature of his hit on Mullen, who was kicking.