It was "a crazy sort of a game" as Johny Lang said in the postgame TV interview.
For the Warriors it sure was a crazy game of unforced errors, turnovers, poor handling, untidy options; all the little things against a Panthers team that pounced with a lot of confidence to claw the Warriors 42-22. An injured Ali Lauitiiti forced a reshuffle with Danny Sullivan running on at prop, centre Clinton Toopi starting in the second row and Louis Anderson promoted to the bench.
When I heard this 15 minutes before game time I changed my tip to the Panthers 13+.
Tony Puletua dived over for the first try in the fourth minute converted by Preston Campbell to put Penrith in front 6-0. A quick dart from dummy half by Tevita Latu resulted in a try to the Warriors. This was followed up minutes later when rookie Louis Anderson, fresh off the bench, dived on the ball by the posts to score. Faumuina converted to put the Warriors in front for the only time in the game 10-6.
But the Panthers lethal attack came roaring back with four tries before halftime. Joe Galuvao barged his way over, then former Dragon Amos Roberts intercepted a pass to sprint 70 metres to score. Preston Campbell found a hole behind the ruck and was over the try line like quicksilver.
Just before the break Roberts flashed over the try line after Trent Waterhouse split the defence. A penalty kick by Faumuina made little difference as the Panthers rolled out a 26-12 lead at halftime.
In the second half the Panthers continued to force decisions on the Warriors defence resulting in 2 more tries to speedster Amos Roberts. The second try came from a Craig Gower kick. Luke Rooney lept up to flick the ball back to Roberts to grab a 38-12 lead. As the game unfolded the Panthers dominated play but the Warriors still had sparkle and a dangerous sting in their game when they were able to focus their attack.
After a clever upfield run they moved the play down to Penrith's line where captain Awen Guttenbeil scored. Faumuina converted to keep their spirits up 38-18.
Then in an exciting move that swept 65 metres Clinton Toopi broke the line and linked up with Webb for Paleaaesina to score. In the final minutes Panthers winger Luke Rooney scored in the corner after centre Paul Whatuira ripped down the field. Penrith nailed the match 42-22.
Warriors forward Louis Anderson had a solid debut in defence and Tevita Latu was sharp and dangerous out of dummy half. It was an exciting match with brilliant attack helped by some shoddy defence where the Warriors seemed to lack confidence and cohesion in defence. Although they gave shimmering glimpses of potent attack the Warriors have urgentwork to do to focus their attack and defence mentally for the full 80 before they meet Manly at Brookvale next Sunday.
Big raps on the Panthers forward who outmuscled and outhustled the Warriors. Gower and Campbell shone as did Amos Roberts who had it all over Meli. The Panthers next Friday night against the Sydney Roosters who smashed the Bulldogs 35-0, shapes up as an awesome thriller.
Warriors 22 : tries Tevita Latu, Awen Guttenbeil, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Louis Anderson. goals Sione Faumuina 3
Vodafone Warriors 2004 http://www.warriors2004.cjb.net