The NZ Warriors not only had to contend with the Penrith Panthers at CUA Stadium today, the Kiwi’s had to brave a string of horror calls from the referees to cling to a 12-6 victory.

With the penalty count reading 11-3 by games end against the Warriors, they also copped a stack of bad calls in relation to knock on’s, strips and interference.

The New Zealander’s remained strong throughout. With their frustration reaching boiling point with the officials, it got worse as the whistle-blowers pinged them for backchat – they were powerless to stop the rot of poor calls. This was a nightmare, but they were never going to let this one get away.

Pulling off an array of last ditch tackles, the on-line defence by the Warriors was close to the best seen this season – with their opponents having a staggering 60+ tackles inside the NZ redzone compared to just under 10 for the Warriors.

The situation will be hard to swallow for Matt Elliot and his Panthers. They had ample opportunity to score bulk points today but couldn’t seem to find cohesion through the hands. Again, the Panthers relied heavily on their ability to score from kicks – but they weren’t getting the bounces they needed today.

Russell Packer and Simon Mannering tackled themselves to a standstill in this clash and Michael Luck possibly needed life support after registering 62 tackles, the Warriors having little petrol left in the tank to run the ball with any purpose by the games end.

A good early period in the game is where the Warriors gave themselves a chance at victory. Smart plotting by coach Ivan Cleary saw his side run consistently from dummy half – catching the Panthers napping in and around the ruck, something the Warriors did well against the Eels last week.

Fast play the balls and a range of short passing close to the ruck is proving a massive strike weapon for the New Zealand side. Their uptempo style is enabled through the great service of Ian Henderson. The nuggety rake who darts, weaves and creates confusion in retreating defence lines.

At times in the first half, the Panthers were a little disinterested. Lacking intensity, which led to the Manu Vatuvei try – the big man steaming down to take a bomb at speed only 10m from the Panthers line, rumbling over untouched.

With such a massive injury situation at the moment, it’s staggering that Ivan Cleary has managed to field a competitive side, let alone win tough road trips such as this one to Penrith.

Their injury curse looks to have continued however, with halves option Issac John suffering a knee injury. Their ever growing hospital ward featuring some big names including Steve Price, Brent Tate, Brett Seymour, Jacob Lillyman, Patrick Ah Van, Kevin Locke and Sam Rapira.

The win keeps the Warriors in good touch with the Top 8. Now moving to 6th position, they are only 4 points off the second placed Panthers as things heat up on the ladder.

While the Panthers can afford to drop this game without losing ladder position, the lack of attacking firepower will concern coach Matt Elliott. While it was slightly slippery underfoot at times during this game, the Panthers still should have notched up more than 6 points given the excessive amount of quality possession they had.

A positive for Penrith was the debut of Danie Laurie. The former Wests Tigers forward having only limited minutes, but posted some productive runs – with the big man crashing through the advantage line and getting good offloads away. Laurie nearly proving a hero with his final injection into the match with minutes remaining – the second rower thrusting himself at the defence and almost producing a try from an offload.

Quality possession meaning ideal field position. This was a game where the Panthers played virtually a whole half of football camped inside the NZ Warriors half of the field.

The Panthers remain at CUA Stadium next week, hosting the out of sorts Eels in a local derby. The NZ Warriors are also at home to the Melbourne Storm in what should be a great matchup

By ricky

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