Maloney steers Penrith to win over Knights

A second-half masterclass from James Maloney has steered Penrith to a 29-18 win over Newcastle to consolidate their spot in the NRL top four.
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Penrith were leading 18-6 on Friday night when Kalyn Ponga gave the Knights some hope with a try in the 54th minute, capitalising on their sixth-straight set on the Panthers’ line.

But some expert game management from Maloney wrenched the momentum back in the Panthers’ favour when the halfback nailed a field goal and penalty goal within eight minutes.

The NSW State of Origin star sealed the win in front of a crowd of 14,801 at McDonald Jones Stadium by kicking for a Corey Harawira-Naera four-pointer in the 71st minute and adding another late penalty goal.

Knights centre Nathan Ross scored a consolation try but it wasn’t enough as the home side – again led by another eye-catching display from Ponga – missed a chance to move into the top eight.

The turning point came in the 33rd minute when, with the Knights down by six, Lachlan Fitzgibbon broke into the backfield and found Connor Watson, whose pass for Brock Lamb hit the grass.

It was immediately pounced on by Tyrone Peachey, who made it a 12-point turnaround by hitting a supporting Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to give the visitors a two-try lead.

It came moments after a Watson brain snap denied Daniel Saifiti a try that also would’ve levelled the scores, after being penalised for taking out the marker in the ruck.

Penrith earlier raced out to a 12-0 lead thanks to two soft tries to Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Peachey through the middle, however Watson pulled one back thanks to a Mitch Barnett offload.

Knights coach Nathan Brown was upset with the refereeing of the 10 metres, as well as the decision to stop play following a shoulder injury to Panthers second-rower Viliame Kikau.

However he pinpointed the result on Watson’s penalty in the ruck that prevented a certain try.

“He had some great stuff tonight, and then he comes up (with) that penalty when we score a try. And the ref didn’t really have much choice there other than to penalise him,” Brown said.

“And so all the good stuff just comes undone.”

Panthers coach Anthony Griffin admitted being stunned with Maloney’s snap decision to go for the one-pointer with over 20 minutes remaining in the match.

“Yeah I was surprised. I thought with that swollen eye, he couldn’t read the clock given there was a lot of time left,” Griffin said.

“We steadied after that, got a bit of ball which we needed. We’d spent 15-18 minutes without it so for the next 15 minutes we had the ball and field position which allowed us to close the game out.”

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