Knights beat Panthers in NRL opener - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Knights beat Panthers in NRL opener

12/03/2004 09:46:38 PM Comments (0)

It was going to take something special to silence the rabid Panthers faithful at Penrith Stadium.

And the Newcastle Knights duly delivered, overcoming the odds, a deafening 19,000-plus Panthers crowd and a cramping Andrew Johns to notch a gutsy 20-14 win over the defending premiers in their National Rugby League season opener.

The last three weeks of ugly headlines stemming from the Bulldogs scandal were forgotten for 80 minutes as the Knights absorbed everything defending champions Penrith could throw at it to notch the season's first upset.

All eyes were on star Knights halfback Andrew Johns for his competition return from a lengthy neck injury but he became a passenger thanks to severe cramps in the final 10 minutes, threatening to join a Newcastle injury list that also included fullback Robbie O'Davis (torn calf).

But Knights coach Michael Hagan breathed easy as Johns - and in turn Newcastle - got off the deck to post a four tries to two thriller despite the bookmakers having Penrith as shortpriced favourites.

After trailing 8-6 at halftime, Penrith was given a sniff when scheming pivot Preston Campbell locked up the scores at 8-8 just five minutes into the second half with a penalty kick.

Referee Tim Mander awarded the penalty after putting Knights prop Adam Woolnough on report for a high shot on Panthers lock Trent Waterhouse who took exception, starting a push and shove that could have turned nasty.

But just three minutes later Knights winger Anthony Quinn was over in the left hand corner, giving Johns his most difficult conversion attempt of the night.

However, Johns - who had missed his first two, and much easier, attempts - calmly potted the ball through the uprights from the sideline.

Eight minutes later Penrith spilt the ball and the Knights made them pay as Kurt Gidley put on the step and took on the defence metres from the line to crash over for his first try.

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