It was the Penrith Panthers of yester-year as the mountain men turned on the after burners to waste the Warriors 46-22 in Penrith today, leaving the NZ Warriors in a deep hole – their away form continuing to slip as 2008 goes by.
Penrith were near perfect in front of a quiet gathering of near 9450 fans, led by back rower Frank Pritchard, new no.7 Luke Lewis and the speedy Michael Jennings – they virtually put on a clinic and drove the knife deeper into the hapless Warriors outfit.
Pritchard, Jennings and winger Michael Gordon all snared a try, with Luke Rooney and Trent Waterhouse also going over for tries and Gordon accurate with the kicking boot – nailing 7 from 9.
The Warriors, who have now lost every single away game in 2008 and are conceding an average of 42 points per game, could only manage 4 tries, with Simon Mannering bagging a brace and Ian Henderson and Russell Packer scoring one apiece. Lance Hohaia kicked three goals.
Warriors captain Micheal Luck, exasperated by his side’s inability to win on the road, said the away-day blues now represented a mental issue for the players.
“Well, I suppose we’ve got to (think about it) now,” he said.
“We’ve got to approach it as a game of footy. It’s a game of footy on a rectangle field exactly as we play in New Zealand.”
Panthers coach Matt Elliott, whose relationship with his players has had its ups and downs since his arrival last year, said he had taken his leadership group’s advice about how to get the best from his side.
“Sometimes it’s just reminding each other that it’s just footy,” Elliott said.
“It’s professional footy and it’s an elite pursuit and you need to make sure that you do the little things right. But the day you don’t take the opportunity to enjoy training … maybe we should get a job on the stock exchange.”
The Panthers led 22-6 at half-time, with Pritchard freakishly snapping up a grubber from Grant Rovelli metres from his own line and sending Jennings on a scintillating 80m for the pick of their tries, but they put the match to bed in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, extending their advantage to 40-6 when Lewis sent Waterhouse crashing over.
Lewis, the centre turned second-rower turned No.7, also had a hand in Gordon’s tries and Pritchard’s first.
He laid on deft grubbers for Gordon in the 16th and 50th minutes, the first bamboozling Warriors full-back Hohaia and the second grabbed superbly by the flying winger.
He also put Pritchard through a hole in the 19th minute for the Panthers’ second try of the afternoon.
The Warriors mounted a forlorn comeback in the second half, as the Panthers’ defensive intensity dropped, with Mannering put through a hole by Rovelli in the 57th minute.
Henderson then forced his way over from dummy-half in the 66th minute, and Packer crossed in the 78th minutes.
The NRL Table remains quite crowded, and prior to the completion of tomorrow nights Canberra vs Souths match, the table stands as follows: