The Penrith Panthers were their own worst enemies, succumbing to their sixth loss in a row against a New Zealand Warriors side brimming with newfound confidence.
With both teams seasons on the line, the crowd at Panthers Stadium were expecting a hard-fought encounter, but the home crowd witnessed a one-sided affair as the New Zealand Warriors – lead by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Kodi Nikorima – made easy work of the Penrith Panthers.
The Panthers had plenty of opportunities at the start of the match finding themselves camped in the Warriors red zone but failed to convert their repeat sets into points. When given a chance the Warriors, taking advantage of some poor marking, marched up the field and scored the first try of the match via the returning Issac Luke, Patrick Herbert’s conversion saw the Warriors take a 6-0 lead. The Warriors wasted no time as they charged up the field on their very next set, with Herbert bouncing of several defenders as he crossed for the second try of his career, his conversion took their lead to 12-0.
The Panthers attempted to claw their way back into the match but continued to blow their opportunities with unforced errors, but their defence was able to restrict the Warriors scoring onslaught, with the Warriors starting to make unforced errors and managing only a penalty goal as they went into the break with a 14-0 lead.
The Panthers continued their poor form as they failed to keep composure when in good field position but the Warriors were not able to take advantage until a Herbert penalty goal broke the points drought. Moments later Kodi Nikorima showed his agility going over the line untouched as he scored his sides third try, Herbert’s conversion gave the Warriors a 20-0 lead with the game almost wrapped up with 22 minutes remaining.
Herbert’s third penalty goal of the match stretched the lead to 22-0 before the Panthers got themselves on the scoreboard with Liam Martin crashing through the Warriors impressive goal-line defence, Nathan Cleary’s conversion was successful but with 10 minutes to go a 22-6 scoreline appeared to be too much for the Panthers to overcome.
The Warriors weren’t finished yet though as Agnatius Passi should tremendous strength, carrying defenders for 10metres as he stormed over for the Warriors final try of the match, Panthers fans will be questioning the dedication of Viliame Kikau who was noticeably not attempting to help his team stop the Warriors barnstorming prop.
Herbert’s conversion saw him end the night with a 100% record as the Warriors went into the final 5 minutes 30-6 ahead.
The Panthers ended the match when Kikau crossed for a consolation try with 2 minutes to go, Cleary’s missed conversion ended a night to forget for the home side.
Crisis of Confidence
The Panthers lack of confidence was evident in this match. 14 Unforced errors and 52 missed tackles paint a brutal story. It appeared that anything that the Panthers tried didn’t work, 50/50 calls went against them and they could not get themselves into the contest. The Panthers need to regain their confidence, and the only way they can do that is by competing every week, stay in the fight, and the wins and confidence will come.
The Behemoth out the back
While all eyes are on Tuivasa-Sheck and new signing Nikorima, the Warriors danger man is Ken Maumalo. Running for 165metres Big Ken had another strong outing for the Warriors, his damaging runs at the start of the Warriors sets are crucial in getting the Warriors on the front foot. If Maumalo can insert himself into the contest as he did in this match, then the Warriors are one step closer to victory.
What now for Penrith
Six losses in a row and sitting at the bottom of the ladder is not where many saw the Panthers being at this point of the season. But the question is, where can this side go from here?
With playoffs almost certainly out of contention does Ivan Cleary start preparing his future stars for the 2020 season or does he charge on with the current crew and try to end the season on a high. The Panthers are a side full of talent, and their fans deserve to see the Panthers end 2019 on a high.
Kodi a breath of fresh air
Nikorima looks to be relishing in his new role at the Warriors, the pressure at the Broncos never appeared to suit him and being allowed the freedom to play his off the cuff style seems to have improved his performance, and the Warriors are all the better for it.
Warriors fans can expect the combination between Nikorima, Green and Tuivasa-Sheck to go from strength to strength in the upcoming weeks.
Tries: Issac Luke, Patrick Herbert, Kodi Nikorima, Agnatius Paasi
Goals: Patrick Herbert 7/7
Tries: Liam Martin, Viliame Kikau
Goals: Nathan Cleary 1/2
Warriors: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. David Fusitu’a, 3. Peta Hiku, 4. Patrick Herbert, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Kodi Nikorima, 7. Blake Green, 8. Agnatius Paasi, 22. Issac Luke, 10. Leeson Ah Mau, 11. Isaiah Papali’i, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Lachlan Burr, 14. Jazz Tevaga, 15. Bunty Afoa, 16. Ligi Sao, 17. Karl Lawton
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards, 2. Brian To’o, 3. Dean Whare, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6. James Maloney, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Sione Katoa, 10. Tim Grant, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. James Fisher-Harris, 13. Liam Martin, 14. Jarome Luai, 15. Tyrell Fuimaono, 16. Moses Leota, 17. Kaide Ellis