Footy Flashbacks: Newcastle 60-18 Penrith (2001)

Ahead of the NRL resuming on May 28, Love Rugby League decided to look at some past matches between the third round match ups.

Another instalment in this collection is Newcastle Knights v Penrith Panthers in round 26 of the 2001 NRL season.



The Knights came into the final round of the 2001 in third place after an impressive season led by the imperious Andrew Johns who had set a club record of 34 points in a 54-26 thrashing of the Raiders. 

After an inconsistent opening few rounds, Michael Hagan’s side won eight successive matches with the last of these being a 19-12 win at Penrith. 

They were streaky though with this run preceding four consecutive losses before they then triumphed in their following four. 

A rare low point for Newcastle in 2001 was the shock round 23 loss to the Tigers, where they lead 24-0 after 30 minutes only to lose 36-32.

This was the Knights’ worst ever collapse in a season where one of their best victories saw them beat Brisbane 44-0 and inflict their biggest ever defeat with Johns scoring 20 points with two tries and six goals in a campaign where he scored 279 points, the most in a season for the club. 


In contrast, the Panthers had endured a nightmare campaign where they had not risen above 13th but a comfortable round 25 win over fellow strugglers Wests had at least given them a chance of avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon. 

Their nadir was in the second half of the season where they lost seven straight matches from round 13. 

This run included a 20-26 loss against North Queensland, who they were battling with to avoid a last place finish. 

The few highlights the Panthers gave their fans were surprisingly at the expense of the Roosters who they did the double over, the only side in the top eight that Royce Simmons’ side beat in 2001. 

Newcastle 60-18 Penrith

Early on it was clear the Panthers would be in a for a long evening when superb handling coupled with weak defence saw Newcastle race into a 12-0 lead courtesy of tries from Sean Rudder and Josh Perry.

A Robbie O’Davis brace, his second finishing off a length of the field try, extended the lead before Penrith finally got on the scoresheet through Craig Gower. 

O’Davis then collected a Danny Buderus kick to claim a first half hat-trick as the Knights led 30-6 at the break. 

Winger Adam McDougall grabbed the first points of the second half before Mark Hughes crossed as Newcastle racked up the points. 

Penrith went about attempting to restore some respectability when Brett Atkinson finished a flowing move to make it 40-12. 

A late flurry though saw the Knights post a further 20 points with McDougall completing his hat-trick and Hughes and Timana Tahu also crossing. 

Matthew Rieck grabbed a try for the Panthers with seconds remaining but it was academic as Newcastle chalked 60 points for only the second time in their history.  

Newcastle: O’Davis; Tahu, Gidley, Hughes, MacDougall; Rudder, Johns; Perry, Buderus, Parsons, Simpson, Kennedy, Peden. Subs: O’Brien, Marquet, Grief, Abraham.

Penrith: Atkinson; Beckett, Girdler, Woods, Rieck; Carter, Rodwell; Greenhill, Gower, MacNamara, Puletua, Adamson, Sattler. Subs: Puletua, Cross, Catic, Lewis.

What happened next?


Newcastle made it 100 points in two games with a 40-6 thrashing of the Roosters in the qualifying final with Tahu crossing as he finished as the club’s top try-scorer with 18. 

It was a closer affair in the preliminary final against Cronulla but flawless kicking from the tee from Johns helped the Knights to an 18-10 victory and the Grand Final. 

They faced the most formidable of the 2001 season in the Eels, who had smashed the scoring record for most points by a club in a season and had scored 919 points. They also had the best defensive record with just 418 points conceded.

The Knights had actually inflicted one of Parramatta’s four defeats in round four but had also been battered 40-0 in the reverse fixture.

They started the final like a train though, leading 24-0 after 32 minutes and unlike their collapse against Wests, they clung on to win 30-24 and claim their second Premiership. 

Newcastle have not reached a Grand Final since, coming closest in 2006 when they lost in the semi-finals to Brisbane. 


As for Penrith, their heavy final round defeat, coupled with North Queensland’s victory at the Warriors meant they got the wooden spoon for the first time since 1980. 

By Sam Harris

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