Shaun Johnson’s possible season ending injury
Shaun Johnson injured his left leg in the final play of the first half but still returned to the field after halftime. The injury persisted into the second half and forced Johnson to limp off the field with 18 minutes to go. Johnson’s departure from the field seemed to impact the team considerably. The Warriors were sitting in the lead at 22-18 but minutes after Johnson left the field the Panthers began clawing their way to the lead with 3 consecutive tries.
There are concerns that Johnson has possibly torn his ACL which would mean at least 6 months on the sideline. A torn ACL will be devastating news for the halfback and the Warriors as this could be the nail in the coffin for the team’s hopes for a successful season.
Nathan Cleary drives the team
I think it is fair to say that Nathan Cleary pretty much won the game for the Panthers. The star player scored a hat-trick of tries and 5 conversions which meant he scored 22 of their final 34 points. Most importantly, he gained 2 of the 3 tries which was crucial for putting the Panthers ahead of the Warriors and securing the win and the 2 points for his team. Clearly took full advantage of the Warriors missing their top attacker in the last quarter of the match and racked up far too many points for the Warriors to catch up too in the remaining minutes of the game.
Bad ball handling in dry weather
It may have been an icy Auckland night but other than the unpleasant temperature – it was perfect, dry conditions for a good game of footy. You wouldn’t know it though as the Panthers made 10 errors and the Warriors 9. Both teams continued to drop and fumble the ball throughout the game which meant constant turnovers and a period of time where no team was able to dominate. Not only was it holding onto the ball which was proving difficult on Friday night but both teams seemed unable to catch a simple highball as they continued to let it bounce as well as dropping it.
Warriors weak defence
The Warriors didn’t have a bad game, but it wasn’t a good game either. Their attack was strong and gained them an early lead but where they lacked was in their defence – which is no different to how it has been all season. The Warriors left gaps which Nathan Cleary in particular took full advantage of at crucial points in the game which ultimately lost them the match as the Panthers were able to overtake them on the scoreboard and maintain the lead.
New Zealand Warriors 22
Tries: Simon Mannering, Solomone Kata (2), Bodene Thompson,
Goals: Shaun Johnson (2), Isaac Luke
Penrith Panthers 34
Tries: Corey Harawira-Naera, Tyrone May, Nathan Cleary (3), Waqa Blake
Goals: Nathan Cleary (5)
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