Warriors 30 Panthers 20
Over the line: Manu Vatuvei scores for the Warriors. Photo: Getty Images
Is this Warriors side the real deal?
The club finds itself inside the sacred top eight, the first time in two years, after a hard fought 30-20 win against the table topping Panthers at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
The game, in front of a crowd of 12,801, was played at a frenetic pace and it was not until crowd favourite Shaun Johnson scored a runaway try with seven minutes to go that Warriors fans started to relax.
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Hurrell(2), Vatuvei, Mannering, Johnson||Tries||5||Tries||4||Players||Soward, Mansour, Moylan, Segeyaro|
|Players||Johnson 5/5 (100%)||Conversions||5||Conversions||2||Players||Moylan 0/1 (0%), Soward 2/2 (100%), Wallace 0/1 (0%)|
|Players||Johnson 0/1 (0%)||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||0||Players|
|Players||Field goals||0||Field goals||0||Players|
The Warriors had lost the last three games against the Panthers, including a humiliating 62-6 defeat last year, coming into Sunday's match. But this was never going to be a whitewash.
For the Warriors, Manu Vatuvei was a standout, both in defence and under high balls. Feleti Mateo sparked a number of plays through the middle and Sam Tomkins proved reliable as ever at the back.
But, again, the men of the moment were Konrad Hurrell, who scored two tries, and Johnson, who scored a try and converted five including three from the sideline.
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said he was happy with win.
"It was a tough game and they are a really good side," he said. "They are an awkward side to play."
Captain Simon Mannering said the team knew it was not going to be an easy win.
"They put us under a lot of pressure, but coming out from half time we addressed it and it allowed us to get back on our own game," he said.
Panthers Bay of Plenty boy Dean Whare caused all sorts of headaches for the Warriors outside backs as did the dancing feet of James Segeyaro and Tyrone Peachey.
The passing of the Panthers was sublime and the team made 18 offloads during the game compared with the Warriors' eight.
Panthers' coach Ivan Cleary said his side had not started well but "the way we played the second half of the first half was pretty much exactly how we wanted to play". Cleary said his side could not build pressure in the second half.
Injury played havoc with both sides. The Warriors lost Jayson Bukuya, who was ruled out with concussion, while the Panthers lost their main playmaker, Jamie Soward, just before half time.
The first 20 minutes was a Warriors onslaught with the Panthers having only completed one of four sets. The Warriors, on the other hand, were completing close to 90 per cent of their sets.
Hurrell dived over in the right corner in the tackle of Jamal Idris after just 2½ minutes.
The Panthers didn't get their first hit up until five minutes into the game and Vatuvei danced over in the 14th minute.
But the Panthers woke up and everything that had been going the Warriors' way started to go to the Panthers.
Peachey put Soward over with 15 minutes to go before half time.
The next Panthers try came from Josh Mansour; it was his 11th try of the season.
The Warriors went about 12 minutes without the ball at one stage and after leading 12-0, a try by Matt Moylan, just before half time, resulted in the visitors going up by four on the scoreboard.
The defence of the New Zealand side stepped up a level after half time and three straight penalties helped their cause.
The Panthers, however, refused to go down without a fight, and Segeyaro sprinted over for a try with 15 to go.
The Warriors held their cool and Hurrell scored a try, before Johnson sealed the game.
The Warriors have the bye next week before playing the Eels at home the weekend after.
McFadden said the team needed to keep winning.
"It is so congested at the top of the table there that if you have a couple of lean weeks and don't get the points, you can slip down very quickly," he said.
"We are keeping ourselves in there and giving ourselves a chance. We can go into the bye now and get a good break."
NZ WARRIORS 30 (K Hurrell 2 S Johnson S Mannering M Vatuvei tries S Johnson 5 goals) bt PENRITH 20 (J Mansour M Moylan J Segeyaro J Soward tries J Soward 2 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Adam Devcich. Crowd: 12,801.