Panthers down Warriors in the wet

The Penrith Panthers have defeated a gallant New Zealand Warriors outfit 18-12 in a soggy affair at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford.

In claiming their victory, the Panthers have extended their winning streak to nine games – breaking the previous club record set by the premiership-winning Penrith side of 2003.

The Panthers have scored sixteen points or more in all but one of their last ten matches and wasted no time getting on the board through Brent Naden, who ran onto a beautifully placed rainbow pass from in-form halfback Nathan Cleary.

Naden has now scored in each of the four games that he has been named on the wing throughout his career.

The wet conditions stifled much of the attacking impetus in the opening stages of the match, with both sides opting to grind their opponents down through the middle.

After fifteen minutes without a score, Stephen Crichton broke the game open by intercepting a wayward pass from Lachlan Burr.

Apisai Koroisau was able to convert on the favourable field position, scooting out of dummy half and ducking under three tacklers to score.

Even though the Warriors managed to keep the scoreline tight, Penrith continued to control every aspect of the match throughout much of the first half.

Through the first thirty two minutes, Penrith held 68% of the ball, completed each of their first twenty two sets and made just 100 tackles in comparison to the Warriors’ 205.

The Warriors eventually succumbed to the weight of pressure as Dylan Edwards grounded a rolling kick from Josh Mansour with four minutes remaining in the half.

Penrith looked likely to retain their 16-0 lead into the break, but Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had other ideas – rising above the pack to catch and score on the last play of the first half.

Patrick Herbert opened the scoring in the second period with a nice finish to a slick, left-to-right attacking shift.

His try cut the lead to just four before Nathan Cleary slotted a penalty goal in the sixtieth minute to push the buffer back out to six points.

Those who expected a fast, free-flowing second-half were left disappointed in the remaining twenty minutes as both sides struggled to put points on the board.

Viliame Kikau was denied a try by the bunker due to an obstruction, while Chanel Harris-Tevita attempted to inspire his side with a monster collision with the much-larger Liam Martin.

However, the Warriors were unable to break the stout Penrith defence and mount a late comeback.

With the win, the Panthers have moved back into pole position on the ladder (pending the result of the Eels-Dragons clash), while the Warriors finals hopes have all but faded as they now sit four points outside the top eight.

Post-match, Ivan Cleary was pleased with his side’s performance but believed that his team lacked the killer instinct to close out the match earlier in the second half.

“We just couldn’t land the knockout punch tonight. I thought we did a lot of good things, we controlled the game really well in really difficult conditions and hats off to the Warriors, because they just didn’t go away” Cleary stated.

On the other side, Todd Payten was ‘proud’ of his side’s effort but unsurprisingly disappointed in the final result.

“We played a team that’s at the top of the ladder, they had 160 more plays with the ball, 12 more sets, 9 repeat sets and a lopsided penalty count, but we just kept turning up and that’s what the game is all about” Payten said.

The Panthers will advance to face the Sharks next Friday evening, while the Warriors will play the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon at 2:00pm.

NRL News Player of the Game:
3 Points – Nathan Cleary – Dominated the clash yet again with one try assist, one try contribution and six forced drop-outs.

2 Points – Apisai Koroisau – He’s been touted as the signing of the season, and it’s not hard to see why. Nabbed a try after the Crichton intercept in addition to forty tackles made throughout the match.

1 Point – Josh Mansour – The Penrith winger hasn’t had as many touches of the ball since Stephen Crichton moved to the left centre position, but Mansour had several important plays in this one. One try assist off a kick and two linebreaks for the man dubbed ‘The Sauce’.

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