Craig Gower returned to the ground where he made his name to haunt the Panthers, scoring a try as Newcastle steamrolled a flat Penrith 32-14 this afternoon.
Gower hadn’t played at Penrith Stadium since walking out on the Panthers in 2007, and was even in doubt for his homecoming as he and wife Amanda await the birth of their second child.
His try – controversial as it was – came with the Knights holding a two point lead in the early stages of the second half. It was a crucial four-pointer, and one that provided the best example of Penrith’s out-of-sorts day. Gower never gave up on a Jarrod Mullen grubber, and pounced on the ball just inside the dead ball line as Panthers fullback Matt Moylan willed the ball to go out.
The Panthers started the game well and went up 6-0 when Dean Whare’s acrobatics saw him score out wide in the 15th minute. The video referee had to approve the try, and left plenty of lingering questions with replays proving there was extensive doubt that Whare put the ball down before his hand went into touch.
The Knights returned serve when Akuila Uate crossed out wide in the 25th minute, and the missed conversion ensured the Panthers maintained a 6-4 lead.
Minutes later, the Panthers made a bizarre decision to kick for goal when awarded a penalty 40 metres out from the Knights’ line. Luke Walsh had no problem extending the lead to 8-4, but with a full set of six on offer and a possible 12-4 scoreline in the offing, it was a strange decision.
And the move most definitely backfired when Darius Boyd helped the Knights take a 10-8 lead at the break.
The Knights slowly played Penrith out of the game in the second half, and the Panthers offered very little fight.
Newcastle made seven line breaks to Penrith’s none, produced double the off-loads and were easily more switched on.
The loss sees Penrith drop out of the top eight, with a crucial battle against Cronulla looming next weekend.
Compounding Penriths’ woes, forwards Mose Masoe and Lewis Brown were both placed on report, while Adam Docker missed the entire second half after picking up an injury.