Newcastle came within a whisker of snatching one of the club’s greatest ever wins but had to settle for a courageous 14-all draw with Penrith at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It was a nightmare start for the Knights as halfback Mitchell Pearce (concussion) was forced from the field in the fifth minute and hooker Connor Watson (ankle) then followed him down the tunnel shortly afterwards.
Penrith eventually broke through in the 20th minute when Viliame Kikau crashed over from close range.
Stephen Crichton added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
The ‘home’ side then extended its advantage just three minutes later, with Panthers utility Kurt Capewell proving too strong for the Knights defence as he banged the ball down in the right-hand corner.
Newcastle winger Edrick Lee was deemed to kick out at the ball in a bid to thwart the try and Crichton booted the conversion and the bonus two points for a 14-0 scoreline.
The Knights received a much-needed lift just before half-time when Jacob Saifiti dived over under the posts and debutant Tex Hoy added the extras.
Another youngster, Bradman Best, then narrowed the deficit in the 59th minute when a strong run and offload by forward Tim Glasby helped create an overlap on the left. Best powered his way across the line to make it 14-10.
The Knights kept coming and drew level in the 70th minute as Lee juggled a Kurt Mann bomb and then found Best, who raced away to score his second try.
Hoy missed the conversion to keep the scores locked at 14-all.
Both sides then had chances to win it before full-time, with Penrith five-eighth Matt Burton missing a field goal attempt from right in front before Mann hooked his effort to the left of the uprights.
A thrilling finish saw Burton miss another attempt, while Lee raced down the left as the siren sounded in the background, only to be taken into touch.
Ten minutes of extra-time then failed to produce a winner.
The Panthers hit the post through Burton’s latest field goal attempt and the Knights bombed a chance to snatch the two points when Hoy shaped to take a shot at goal before finding Best in space.
Best drew his defender but, with the line open, the final pass went behind Lee and it bounced into touch.
The draw leaves Newcastle undefeated ahead of the round four clash with Canberra next Sunday 7 June.
- Check out some of the action in our gallery below (photos courtesy of Getty Images).
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