The Panthers were to strong for the Warriors at ANZ Stadium in the first elimination final.
The Panthers and Warriors had one win each over each other in the regular season, so it was appropriate they met in the first elimination final.
An early penalty to the Panthers – after Agnatius Paasi took out James Maloney’s legs – put the Panthers up 2-0, but it was the New Zealand Warriors who threatened early with Issac Luke going over in the 8th minute. Unforced errors gave the Warriors good field position, allowing Shaun Johnson to draw in two players then put David Fusitu’a over in the left corner to give them a 12-2 lead after 15 minutes.
It took a 40/20 from Maloney to give the Panthers an opportunity in New Zealand territory; the Panthers took full advantage through a Nathan Cleary grubber, chased by Tyrone Peachey for a four pointer. The Warriors’ kick-off went out on the full, giving the Panthers a penalty on halfway. They took advantage with a great run from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak breaking through Adam Blair’s attempted tackle, setting up Maloney in support to put the Panthers back in the lead.
The game went from bad to worse for the Warriors when captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck went off with knee injury. The Panthers piled on the points when Peachey crossed over for his second try, with the Panthers again attacking the Warriors’ left edge. The Panthers went into halftime up 18-12.
Luke’s tackle on Maloney in the second half was one of the biggest ever seen, but even that wasn’t enough to motivate the Warriors. The Panthers again spread the ball out wide, with Christian Crichton scoring in the corner, with Cleary extending the Panthers’ lead to 24-12 10 minutes into the second half.
Maloney recovered from the Luke hit, kicking a field goal to put the Panthers 13 ahead, before Cleary’s penalty goal put the icing on the cake, with 25 unanswered points to the Panthers ending the Warriors’ 2018 season.
Finals Specialist Maloney Leads Panthers
Finals specialist Maloney was at the forefront of the Panthers’ win, with the two-time premiership winner showing all of his experience. His 40/20 in the 19th minute set up the Panthers’ comeback; his try soon after put the Panthers in the lead and they went on with it.
Warriors’ Season Still a Success
A subdued end to Simon Mannering’s 301-game career, and a quiet game from Johnson. The Warriors never recovered after Tuivasa-Sheck went off in the 27th minute. On reflection it has been a successful year for the Warriors, their best season since 2011’s grand final appearance.
Cameron Ciraldo’s First Finals Win as Head Coach
Caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo has done no harm to his head coaching chances with success in his first final. The Panthers will play a semi-final against the injury-hit Cronulla Sharks, who lost to the Roosters.
Stephen Kearney Proud of the Season
Warriors coach Kearney said his team had cause to be proud of their season, “it’s important to recognise [our improvement]” Kearney said. “we didn’t put our best performance out there, but we have made some progress this year, there’s no doubt about that”.
Penrith Panthers 27
Tries: Tyrone Peachey 2, James Maloney, Christian Crichton
Goals: Nathan Cleary 5/6
Drop Goals: Maloney
New Zealand Warriors 12
Tries: Issac Luke, David Fusitu’a
Goals: Shaun Johnson 2/2
1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Tyrone Peachey, 5 Christian Crichton, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 Trent Merrin, 9 Sione Katoa, 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 James Fisher-Harris.
Interchange: 14 Tyrone May, 15 Moses Leota, 16 Corey Harawira-Naera, 17 James Tamou.
New Zealand Warriors
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2. David Fusitu’a, 3. Peta Hiku, 4. Solomone Kata, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Blake Green, 7. Shaun Johnson, 8. James Gavet, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Agnatius Paasi, 11. Adam Blair, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Simon Mannering.
Interchange: 14. Jazz Tevaga, 15. Isaiah Papali’i, 16. Bunty Afoa, 17. Gerard Beale.