Barnett referred straight to judiciary after send off, Panthers roll Knights

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A brain snap by Knights forward Mitch Barnett led to him being sent off and Penrith continuing their strong start to 2022 with a thumping 38-20 win over Newcastle in Bathurst.

Barnett is now the first player to be referred straight to the judiciary under the new NRL disciplinary rules, and faces a ban that could be a month or longer.

Under the previous setup, Barnett, who has a clean previous record, would have faced four weeks for grade three striking with the potential to be downgraded to three weeks with an early guilty plea.

Now, he faces an undetermined time out with the judiciary set to make a call on Tuesday night.

Knights coach Adam O’Brien refused to go after his forward, who is now facing a lengthy suspension for the incident in the 32nd minute when he became the first player to be sent from the field this season after a shocking elbow to the jaw of Panthers forward Chris Smith.

“You can’t talk about it, it’s going to the judiciary so we’ll leave it,” he said.

“Mitch doesn’t need me coming our kicking him publicly. He’s part of our family and we’ll deal with it behind closed doors. There’s no one feeling worse than Mitch down there.

“He needs the support of his teammates. The angles were hard to see, it took a long time to actually see so I haven’t had a good look, but I can’t talk about it anyway.”

Smith was running a decoy line and had almost come to a standstill when Barnett had his brain explosion, raising his forearm straight into his opponent’s face.

It was initially missed by the officials, who continued play as Smith lay prone on the floor, with the Panthers even having a try taken off by the bunker while their man was down.

It was only after the bunker had decided on the try that referee Peter Gough was alerted to the foul play.

Warren Smith on the Fox League commentary called the shot “as cheap as it gets” while Steve Roach described it as “the sort of challenge that we thought had gone out of the game”.

Fox League analyst Cooper Conk said Barnett should receive a lengthy suspension, calling the incident “ugly” and “stupid”.

“To raise the elbow in that position and make contact on the chin. Sent off I agree with and he will be spending a long, long time on the sidelines,” Cronk said.

Ivan Cleary said he wasn’t sure of the extent of the damage to Smith, but was optimistic that it might not be as bad as first feared.

Cleary said: “I was worried about him. Once I saw what happened and he was holding his jaw, I was very worried. It’s definitely his jaw, but we won’t know until he gets X-rays but it doesn’t look too bad.

“It’s an unusual one. I don’t know how to explain that one. From what I’ve seen of Mitch Barnett, it seems out of character – I’m not sure what happened there.”

Newcastle were leading 6-4 at the time and they had been more than a match for Penrith in the early stages, but getting a result against the premiers while playing 50 minutes with 12 men was always going to be a big ask.

Indeed, Ivan Cleary will likely be the unhappier of the two coaches as his men failed to pull away from the Knights, while Adam O’Brien could be very pleased with the way that his team stuck to their task with a man down and kept the result alive until the last five minutes.

“I’m happy with 3-0,” said Cleary. “Wasn’t really happy with the game, but good to get the win with some troops down.

“I felt our intensity dropped when they went down to 12. We started the game OK, but set the scene by giving away penalties and inviting them down our end, and that pretty much went on for 80 minutes.

“We played 40 minutes last week and then today, not enough intensity which we need to address.

“When they went down to 12, we didn’t handle it well mentally. Every time we scored we got worse. We’re a young team and there’s a lot of lessons in there.”

The Panthers will take plenty from their threat out wide – all their tries came from centres and wingers, and all four outside backs scored – but Cleary might wonder about the ease with which Newcastle exposed them defensively.

Penrith raced into a lead through Taylan May, only for Dom Young to continue his scoring streak after clever work out wide from Dane Gagai.

Newcastle did not struggle as badly as might have been expected. Penrith saw Taylan May and Izack Tago complete doubles, with Stephen Crichton adding another, but the Knights continually pegged them back.

Tex Hoy, Bradman Best and Enari Tuala all got over, and it was only when May completed his hat trick with three minutes remaining that the Panthers were truly safe. Charlie Staines completed the scoring in the final seconds.

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