The Penrith Panthers faced off against the Newcastle Knights in a battle between two unbeaten sides at Campbelltown Stadium, where both sides were looking to make it three wins for three.
Newcastle Knights suffered the first blow after Mitchell Pearce caught his head in the wrong position while tackling Stephen Crichton, and would not return to the field.
Just minutes later, Connor Watson caught his ankle underneath his body while tackling Viliamie Kikau. He also left the field and it was worrying sign for head coach Adam O’Brien.
Rookies Chris Randall and Brodie Jones were brought on to replace the two experienced players.
After 10 minutes, Penrith nearly scored the first points after a wonderful weighted kick from Matt Burton bounced perfectly into the hands of Dean Whare.
However, Tex Hoy managed to get underneath the Panthers centre and keep the sides level.
With the home side having attacking set after attacking set, the Knights were close to cracking, but once again managed to hold Penrith short on the last tackle.
The Knights defence was making up for errors with the ball in hand, as they managed to stop Whare once again on the right edge, and then Josh Mansour on the left.
Just before the 20th minute, the Panthers were back by the Knights line again, and after picking up a short pass from Jarome Luai, Kikau powered his way over to pick up a four-pointer.
The Knights looked to lose a third player just a minute later, as Tim Glasby left the field for a Head Injury Assessment, which left them with just one fit replacement with an hour remaining.
Luckily for the Knights, the forward returned after passing his HIA.
With Newcastle struggling to contain Penrith, it wasn’t going to be long until try number two was scored.
This time, Kurt Capewell, pushed off Kurt Mann and stretched his arm out to dot the ball down.
It was also deemed an eight-point for the Panthers after Edrick Lee struck Capewell with his boot while trying to stop the centre grounding the ball.
Crichton converted both attempts at goal for a 14-0 lead.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Penrith were controlling the game in both attack and defence and once again found themselves in good attacking territory.
However, Matt Burton’s high kick was tapped down by Josh Mansour into Newcastle hands.
In the final minute of the half, the Knights started a set of six just 20 minutes out from the Panthers line.
A few tackles later, a hard line and left-footed step from Jacob Saifiti was enough for the big man to crash over from five metres out.
Tex Hoy converted to make it 14-6 at the break.
HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 14-6 Newcastle Knights
The second half started with the same physicality levels than the first, but luckily for the Knights, they hadn’t lost any further players.
The Panthers found themselves camped deep in Newcastle territory again leading up to the 55th minute, but the visitors were holding firm despite conceding plenty of repeat sets.
After Edrick Lee was able to secure a 20-metre restart, the Knights charged upfield and picked up a fresh set just 30 metres out.
Just two tackles later 18-year-old, Bradman Best, found himself with plenty of room after some good work from Kurt Mann and accelerated and burrowed between four Panthers players to cut the gap.
Newcastle then levelled the scores with 12 minutes to go, after a high kick from was collected by Lee who offloaded to Best, despite numerous Panthers around him, for the centre to pick up his second try.
With the scores locked at 14-14 and less than 5 minutes on the clock, both teams were looking to find a way to win and keep their unbeaten records.
The Panthers were the first to attempt one-pointer and Matt Burton connected perfectly with the ball, but unfortunately for the young half-back, he dragged his effort inches wide.
The following set, Kurt Mann had his own rushed effort, which sailed wide.
Time was ticking by for both sides, with poor end of sets, and errors coming from both sides.
A huge busting run from Brian To’o put the Panthers to within 15 metres, of the Knights line, and it looked as though Penrith had done enough to claim the two points.
However, Burton’s second drop-goal attempt went to the left of the sticks this time.
Edrick Lee charged down the left edge with just three seconds remaining, but ran out of the room, with the game going to golden point extra-time.
FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 14-14 Newcastle Knights
The Panthers were the first to receive the ball in extra-time, and Josh Mansour raced down the left-wing and put them within field goal position.
Burton took another effort for the one-pointer, this time though, the ball ricocheted off the upright, and into the hands of an offside Penrith player.
The Knights had the next chance to kick a field-goal but Tex Hoy scuffed his attempt, but they managed to win a repeat set.
Bradman Best and Edrick Lee found themselves two-on-one down the left-wing but Best’s pass to Lee was behind the winger.
Burton attempted one last drop-goal with the extra-time half-time hooter, but his effort was short this time.
EXTRA-TIME HALF-TIME: Penrith Panthers 14-14 Newcastle Knights
With five minutes of the game remaining, no matter the result, the chance of both teams remaining unbeaten was still a possibility.
Neither team attempted a drop-goal and two minutes were still left on the clock.
Matt Burton changed that though, with his fourth attempt at the one point, but once again, despite the good connection, the ball drifted wide.
After a knock-on from the Panthers, the Knights threw the ball around for the final ten seconds trying to find space in the defensive line.
However, Best was tackled and the final whistle blew with both teams picking up a solitary point after a huge effort from both sides.
EXTRA-TIME FULL-TIME: Penrith Panthers 14-14 Newcastle Knights
Aekins, Mansour, Whare, Crichton. To’o, Burton, Luai, Tamou, Koroisau, Fisher-Harris, Kikau, Capewell, Yeo
Interchanges: Tetevano, Leota, Kenny, Burns
Tries: Kikau, Capewell
Goals: Crichton (3/3)
Hoy, Lee, Tuala, Best, Hunt, Mann, Pearce, Klemmer, Watson, D. Saifiti, Mata’utia, Guerra, Ese’ese
Interchanges: Randall, J. Saifiti, Glasby, Jones
Tries: J. Saifiti, Best (2)
Goals: Hoy (1/3)
Referee: B. Cummins
Touch Judges: P. Henderson, C. Butler
Video Referee: B. Galea
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)