Penrith has kept its unbeaten start to the NRL season alive thanks to a 14-all draw with Newcastle at Campbelltown Stadium.
In front of only cardboard cutouts and select club officials – including a mascot watching on from the stands – the Panthers looked in control in the first half, especially after the Knights lost Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson to injury early in the contest.
After a few false starts, the Panthers finally got on the board when Viliame Kikau crashed over in the 18th minute, before Kurt Capewell grabbed an eight point try on debut five minutes later.
But the 14-0 lead would evaporate just before half-time when Newcastle grabbed a last gasp try to narrow the margin.
The Knights fought their way back in the second half, grabbing two more unconverted tries to level the game and set up a grandstand finish.
Matt Burton missed two field goal attempts late in the game that could have given Penrith the win, and a further two in Extra Time.
Edrick Lee almost scored in the dying minutes to give Newcastle a win, but in the end the points were split.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said the match desended into a “dog fight”.
“It was definitely a lost opportunity,” he said.
“We just couldn’t seem to land the knock out blow.”
Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien said he was “super proud” of his side’s performance, particularly given the early setbacks.
“Toughness was certainly something we spoke about in the pre-season. If you want to feel good you’re playing the wrong game,” he said.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.