Talk about a tale of two coaches. Two coaches brought together by the same patch of grass in the Auckland industrial suburb of Penrose.
On one hand you had Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, arguably one of the greatest servants in Warriors history. A man who played in the club's first grand final, in 2002, and coached them to their second, last season.
On the other, Brian McClennan, the much-vaunted former Kiwis and Leeds Rhinos coach. The man who was meant to take last year's ''really good'' and make it ''great''. A man whose coaching career hangs in the balance after his side lost its sixth straight yesterday to Cleary's Panthers, with co-owners Eric Watson and Owen Glenn said to be calling for accountability - and results.
While yesterday's match at Mt Smart Stadium was one to forget, not only for the 18-16 scoreline but the sloppy football both sides played, McClennan remained stoic afterwards. Well, as stoic as a bloke as stressed-looking as ''Bluey'' is.
''As far as I'm concerned, I just keep trying to do my best for the players and I'll control what I can control and that's how I prepare myself and work with the staff to prepare the team,'' he said.
McClennan, along with assistant Tony Iro and Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah, met former Eels coach Stephen Kearney at the weekend with the idea of bringing him in as a second assistant coach.
At this stage, that's all it will be, Scurrah told the Herald, meaning McClennan will likely still be in charge when the Warriors travel to Wollongong to play the Dragons next weekend.
''It's a bit premature to speculate,'' he said of McClennan's future.
Both sides were sloppy yesterday, especially in the first half, leading to 29 errors in the game, while neither team ever really dominated for a significant period.
Panthers halfback Luke Walsh provided the ultimate difference, converting centre Travis Robinson's 77th-minute try, but Cleary summed it up best with his first words in the post-match press conference. ''It wasn't the world's best game, was it?'' Cleary said. ''It's just good to win - we haven't done it too often. It doesn't matter how you win but it's … a win.''
Coming into the game, victory was crucial for both teams. After some close losses in recent weeks, the visitors wanted to end the season on a positive note, and give their opponents a message they will be much stronger next season.
As for the Warriors, well, where do you start? It is their worst losing streak in five years, and only one short of equalling their worst ever.
McClennan needed a win to keep the wolves at bay, at least for another week, and while it was a vastly superior defensive effort by the Warriors than their last two weeks, he wouldn't get it.
''I know the result wasn't the result that we all wanted,'' McClennan said. ''We tried really hard today but it ain't the result we wanted.''
It had started well for the Warriors, scoring with their first raid into Panthers territory with centre Ben Henry dotting down off a James Maloney grubber.
Errors began to flow for both teams, in terms of fumbled passes and poor completion rates, but it was the Panthers, after the hard work of Walsh and Lachlan Coote, who turned the game the visitors' way.
Yet the Warriors, who lost hooker Nathan Friend with a dislocated right shoulder early on, would be next to cross, with halfback Shaun Johnson snaffling a Michael Gordon pass to run away for an 80-metre intercept try. It gave them a 10-point lead that was only cut in the shade of half-time, with Coote making a surging break that would put captain Kevin Kingston over.
Fullback Carlos Tuimavave, who performed admirably in his first NRL start at fullback, got the second half off to a good start for the hosts, when he threw a superb pass to Henry, who out-stepped Robinson to notch his second.
But the Panthers were playing the better footy and would put themselves back in it again with 20 minutes to go when Coote spun out of a tepid tackle by Maloney to score.