Two tries from Josh Mansour helped a new-look Penrith side open their 2014 NRL season with a comfortable 30-8 win over a wounded Newcastle side on Saturday.
It was a nightmare afternoon for the Knights on a warm afternoon in Sydney’s west, with fullback Darius Boyd, skipper Kurt Gidley and halfback Tyrone Roberts all forced out of the game with injuries.
Boyd pulled up sharply with a hamstring problem in the 10th minute and left the field shortly after.
Gidley, who missed most of last year with a foot tendon issue, was forced up the tunnel under the new concussion rules before halftime and never returned, while Roberts departed 20 minutes from time after clashing heads trying to prevent an Adam Docker try.
The Knights, who were already without key playmaker Jarrod Mullen due to a hamstring injury, struggled terribly in the first half, making 13 errors with a completion rate of just 43 per cent.
The Panthers, who fielded six new signings and gave a debut to young centre Isaah Yeo, weren’t much better in the opening stanza and found themselves trailing just after the half-hour mark when Beau Scott barged over for the visitors.
On the stroke of halftime, the Panthers levelled the scores when new boys Jamie Soward and Elijah Taylor combined, the New Zealand international latching on to a kick from the former NSW five-eighth.
A Roberts penalty just before the siren gave the Knights a two-point lead at halftime, but the hosts were much improved after the restart.
Mansour showed great strength to score his first try in the 44th minute and doubled his total almost immediately following a 40-20 kick from Jamie Soward.
The hosts appeared to forget the new ruling that allows a quick tap after finding touch with a 40-20, and the chance of catching the Knights napping looked gone.
However, the ball was spread wide and Mansour showed great athleticism to stay in touch, dive over the line and score one-handed.
Docker iced the result with a bulldozing run to the line and Jeremy Latimore, another new face, marked his debut with a try late to give the final scoreline an emphatic look.