NRL live blog: Newcastle Knights take on Penrith Panthers in Round 23 of the 2018 NRL season

A WILD brawl that led to four players being sin-binned overshadowed a gutsy 20-12 victory by the Newcastle Knights over Penrith at Panthers Stadium on Saturday.

Both teams finished with 11 players apiece after tempers flared and punches were exchanged in the 76th minute.

Referee Ben Cummins first marched Newcastle's Danny Levi and Shaun Kenny-Dowall for 10 minutes, then Penrith's Tyrone May and Villiame Kikau followed.

Penrith capitalised on the extra space with a consolation try by replacement hooker Wayde Egan a minute from full-time.

It was too little, too late to stop Newcastle banking two competition points they thoroughly deserved. 

Chasing their first win at the foot of the mountains since 2013, Newcastle produced a gritty, resolute performance - perhaps their best defensive display in years.

The win was Newcastle's ninth of the season and lifted them ahead of Canberra and Gold Coast to 10th on the points table.

Running with a stiff wind at their backs, the Knights were 14-6 leaders at half-time.

Newcastle scored three tries to one in a stop-start first half against an error-plagued Penrith side.

The visitors were denied an early try to Kenny-Dowall in the fourth minute after the final pass, from centre Sione Mata'utia, was ruled forward.

The were eventually rewarded when they attacked a short blind side in the 12th minute and lock Aidan Guerra speared between two defenders to score.

Six minutes later, they claimed their second try when Kalyn Ponga, playing five-eighth for the first time in his NRL career, grubber kicked and centre Cory Denniss won the race to ground the ball.

Penrith hit back with a fortuitous try in the 25th minute, when Knights fullback Nick Meaney lost the ball on a kick-return, after a Cory Harawira-Naera tackle.

Penrith's May pounced to score next to the posts.

Newcastle replied almost immediately when they worked a set move and Meaney made amends by throwing a classy short ball for Mata'utia to crash over for his eighth try of the season.

The Knights withstood enormous pressure for sustained periods in the second half before Ponga initiated a short-side attack and winger Ken Sio dived over spectacularly for his 10th try of the season.

Sio converted from the sideline to give his team a crucial 14-point lead with 10 minutes to play. 

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This story Knights outmuscle Panthers in hard-fought 20-12 victory | PHOTOS first appeared on Newcastle Herald.