Penrith Panthers on the back of a brilliant first half defensive effort were able to put a halt to the Warriors’ winning ways with a comprehensive 36-8 win at a cold & blustery SportingBet Stadium this afternoon. Coach Garth Brennan no doubt would have been happy with keeping the Warriors to nil in the first half despite running into a gale before his side used the wind to great advantage in the second half with Bryce Cartwright & Will Smith carving up at will down the Warriors’ right edge defense.
The Warriors would have gone into this game as strong favourites given their 4 match winning streak & the fact that Penrith lost 6 players during the week to representative duties (K Naiqama, Nabuli, Blake, Campbell-Gillard, John, Moseley) & Watene-Zelezniak & Matt Eisenhuth to injury. Luke Capewell was a late call up to play fullback, while new recruit Ben Murdoch-Masila started from the bench. The Panthers also gave NSW Cup debuts to Holden Cup premiership players Andy Saunders & Brendon Attwood. The Warriors in contrast lost only Tuimavave, Sio & Peyroux to the Samoan team with no late changes to the side named mid-week.
The Warriors led by their forwards & particularly Sione Lousi were proving a handful for the Panthers defence & only poor options denied them early points. The Warriors persevered with the tactic of peppering the Panthers right edge defense of Nathan Smith & Eddie Aiono through Kevin Locke & Dane Nielsen but to their credit the Panthers duo held firm in defence. The Warriors should have had first points when a Locke grubber behind Tom Eisenhuth almost found a flying Braxton Stanley but the ball just beat him into touch-in-goal.
The Warriors conceded a try against the run of play in the 29th minute when a Lolohea grubber was trapped by Bryce Cartwright who was able to regather & offload to Will Smith who scorched on a 60m run to the tryline to open the scoring. Smith’s own conversion giving the Panthers an unlikely 6-0 lead but a reward for great defence nonetheless. For the remainder of the half, the Warriors continued to take poor options when deep in attack & at halftime the Panthers against the odds led 6-0.
The Panthers took great confidence out of that first half performance in defense & soon doubled their lead when a Cartwright chip kick into space was brilliantly regathered by Will Smith before offloading to Attwood who in turn found Daniel Foster to dive over next to the posts. A short kick off paid dividends for the Warriors as they were able to spread play left on the last tackle creating the overlap for Jarrod Tua to score in the corner from close range but Locke missed the difficult attempt from the sideline to leave the Warriors trailing 12-4.
That was as close as it got as Penrith dominated the remainder of the half proceeding to score at will. A Will Smith grubber & kick through into the in-goal was pounced upon by Liam Ayoub to score next to the left posts to extend the lead to 14 points & a try to Tom Eisenhuth in the 61st minute resulted from a quick shift left close to the Warriors try line with Bryce Cartwright & Will Smith again instrumental. Will Smith’s difficult conversion giving the Panthers a commanding 24-4 lead.
A barging try to Warriors prop, Nathaniel Peteru with 6 minutes remaining gave some respectability to the Warriors scoreline but two more converted tries scored by the Panthers in the remaining 5 minutes through Will Smith (his second for the afternoon) & Leilani Latu.
Next Saturday night Penrith travel up the M1 to take on Newcastle Knights at Cessnock Sportsground while the Warriors return home to take on Mounties at Eden Park on Saturday afternoon.
Final Score: Penrith 36 (Tries: W Smith 2 Foster Ayoub T Eisenhuth, Latu Goals: W Smith 4/4 Cartwright 2/2) def NZ Warriors 8 (Tries: Tua, Peteru Goals: Locke 0/2)