Despite losing two men to the sin-bin, the Penrith Panthers showed grit and determination in their 19-18 Golden Point victory over the New Zealand Warriors.
After last weeks break for internationals and State of Origin, the crowd at Mount Smart Stadium were expecting an exciting clash between two teams desperate to close the gap between themselves and the top eight; however, the home crowd left disappointed as the Warriors blew a 16-12 lead to lose in Golden Point.
The Warriors started the match strong when Peta Hiku barged over in the corner at the five-minute mark for the first try of the game, Patrick Herbert missed conversion gave the Warriors a 4-0 lead. The Panthers didn’t let the Warriors quick start throw them as they bounced back with some strong runs from Viliame Kikau which put them in good field position. James Maloney continued his Origin form snatching up a deflected kick and setting James Tamou up for one of the easiest tries of his career as he strolled over the line untouched. Maloney’s conversion gave the Panthers a 6-4 lead.
Both sides traded sets with neither team able to gain the upper hand; the Warriors had more opportunities including Karl Lawton having a try disallowed but were frustrated by the Panthers extra attention in the ruck and after several penalties elected for Herbert to level the scores 6-6 with a successful penalty goal.
The Panthers woes continued as after their ninth first-half penalty Liam Martin was sin-binned which allowed the Warriors to take advantage when Bunty Afoa crashed over from 10metres out, Herbert’s conversion gave the Warriors a 12-6 lead as they went into the break.
Brent Naden almost started the second half off perfectly when kicked the ball for himself but ultimately was ruled to have knocked it on during the grounding. The Warriors almost had a try in the other direction, but Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was ruled to have been impeded by Jarome Luai on the way to the try line. This lead to Luai being the second Panther sin-binned in the match, once again the Warriors were quick to pounce when David Fusuitu’a scored in the corner although replays showed that the Panthers might have been hard done by as it looked like Fusitu’a may have had a hand in touch before grounding the ball. Herbert missed another conversion but pushed the Warriors lead out to 16-6.
The Warriors appeared comfortable with their lead and dropped their intensity which was all the Panthers needed to get their foot in the door as Naden snatched a Maloney kicked right out of Tuivasa-Sheck’s hands to score, Maloney, edged the Panthers closer with his conversion making the score 16-12. The Warriors were desperate to hold on to their slim lead and appeared to be on their way to victory keeping the Panthers camped in their own half until Naden struck again bursting through a weak tackle by Herbert and sprinting 80 metres to score the equalising try, Maloney converted it to hand the Panthers an 18-6 lead at the 78th minute.
A short kickoff bu the Warriors saw the Panthers penalised for an accidental offside which allowed Herbert to slot a penalty goal to level the game 18 all and send the game into Golden Point. The Panthers were in the driver’s seat during the Golden Point period, and despite missing his first attempt, Maloney had no issues when he slotted his second attempt handing the Panthers their 5th win in a row 19-18.
Panthers streak continues
The Panthers hadn’t lost a match since Round 10 when they lost to the Warriors 30-10. With the 2019 season being so close the Panthers run of form has turned them from cellar dwellers to a legitimate playoff chance now, with a bye in the next round followed by a match against the Gold Coast Titans, the Panthers should find themselves in the top eight sooner rather than later.
Fortress no more
The Warriors were leading all the stats and played a quarter of the match with more players on the field, but they found themselves defeated once again. The New Zealand side has not had a victory at home since round 4 in April and the time when teams use to dread travelling across the ditch appear to be long gone.
If the Warriors are to turn their 2019 season around, they need to start getting results at home.
Room for improvement
Although they now have five wins in a row, the Panthers have a lot to work on.
They missed 54 tackles, conceded 11 penalties and had two sin-bins, against better competition you could guarantee that the Panthers would have been punished, Nathan Cleary’s return soon should help this side, but if they don’t improve their basic fundamentals, then they will watch the playoffs instead of competing.
Time to get ready for 2020?
With their 9th defeat of 2019, it may be time to put a line through this season and look to the future. The Warriors have shown little sign that they can improve this year and the lack of direction on attack is becoming more and more evident as the season marches on.
Perhaps it’s time to put some players out to pasture and bring in the new blood sitting in reserve grade to get some much-needed experience before trying it all again next year.
Tries: James Tamou, Brent Naden (2)
Goals: James Maloney 3/3
Field Goals: James Maloney 1/2
Tries: Peta Hiku, Bunty Afoa, David Fusitu’a
Goals: Patrick Herbert 1/3
Field Goals: Blake Green 0/1
Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Isaah Yeo, 4. Brent Naden, 5. Brian To’o, 6. Jarome Luai, 7. James Maloney, 8. James Tamou, 9. Mitchell Kenny, 10. James Fisher-Harris, 11. Viliame Kikau, 12. Frank Winterstein, 13. Liam Martin, 14. Wayde Egan, 15. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 16. Moses Leota, 21. Dean Whare
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, 9. Karl Lawton, 10. Leeson Ah Mau, 11. Adam Blair, 12. Isaiah Papali’i, 13. Jazz Tevaga, 14. Nathaniel Roache, 15. Bunty Afoa, 16. Sam Lisone, 17. Leivaha Pulu