Our weekly feature - The Armchair Expert - returns just in time for the finals!
This week we look a...
7 hours ago
New Zealand Warriors 28 v Penrith Panthers 22
at Ericsson Stadium
Referees: Ben Cummins
New Zealand has defeated Penrith at home tonight by 28-22, extending their winning streak to four in a row and at the same time preventing the Panthers from recording their seventh consecutive victory against the Auckland-based outfit.
In a match that may prove crucial to the make-up of the final 8, the Warriors remained enthusiastic throughout and could have scored more points if they had shown a bit of patience and resolve, instead grassing a few genuine scoring opportunities.
Man of the match Simon Mannering opened the scoring in the 4th minute when he crashed over out wide following a mistake by Preston Campbell where he spilled the ball into touch.
It was a very hot and cold display from the zippy halfback, but he added a penalty goal in the 11th minute before Mannering struck again shortly after. Campbell put up a mid-field bomb that went backwards and as the Panthers tried to bat the ball back to continue attacking, the solid centre swooped on the ball and raced 60m to score.
A terrible injury to Luke Lewis didn?t help the visitors either as the makeshift five-eighth stayed down following a tackle with initial reports suggesting he has nearly severed a finger, presumably getting his hand caught in an opponent?s studs. Whatever happened there was plenty of blood spurting from his hand as he left the field.
Penrith then went on the attack with tries to Galea in the 26th minute and Hookey in the 37th putting them ahead by 14-10 with Campbell involved on both occasions. The score was unchanged as teams went to the sheds despite a late effort by Martin and Ah Van down the western flank that almost proved fruitful.
The second half opened with a few handling errors courtesy of the greasy conditions at the ground but the Warriors found their rhythm and reclaimed the lead in the 48th minute through captain Ruben Wiki who stayed alive to receive a pass from halfback Grant Rovelli whilst attacking the line from close range.
Soon after the Warriors put on a superb length of the field effort when Ah Van pounced on a grubber close to the line and wrong-footed the defenders before scooting 70m where he offloaded to Martin who finished off nicely. With the conversion the Warriors held a solid 22-14 lead and were looking good.
But a try under the posts to Priddis in the 64th minute got the ball rolling for the Panthers again and Campbell added a further penalty goal three minutes later to level the game and set up a nail biting finish.
Fittingly it was in-form fullback Brent Webb who scored the match-winner with five minutes left on the clock. The speedy custodian has been doing great things across the ditch for the past few rounds and has kept the hopes of Warriors fans alive as they look to resurrect their final 8 aspirations.
Next week will be tough assignment for them against the Bulldogs and they?re shooting for five in a row for the first time since early 2003. Tonight may have been Penrith?s last roll of the dice as they slump to their ninth loss of the season and will host the Raiders next week in another crunch game.
New Zealand Warriors: 28
Tries: Simon Mannering(2), Tony Martin, Brent Webb, Ruben Wiki
Goals: Tony Martin 4/5
Penrith Panthers: 22
Tries: Danny Galea, Luke Priddis, Lee Hookey
Goals: Preston Campbell 5/5
Halftime: Panthers 14-10
By the Clock:
Cool night over here in Auckland, with the ground a little greasy.
Changes for the Warriors: Guttenbiel goes back to the bench with Luck promoted.
The Panthers are as per the program.
1 min: NEWS The Panthers kick-off in the first half.
3 min: NEWS A few mistakes early with Ropati dropping the ball cold then Campbell spilling it over the sideline.
4 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors
Mannering crashes over out wide to open the scoring for the evening after the Warriors took possession in good field position following Campbell's mistake. Martin misses the goal from out wide but the home team is off to a good start.
8 min: NEWS A near miss for the Warriors down the western flank where Campbell is defending. They're clearly targetting him tonight.
11 min: PENALTY GOAL Penrith Panthers
Campbell hoists a penalty goal to put the Panthers on the board.
15 min: NEWS Loius Anderson denied a try for a double movement after going himself from dummy half. Silly play really.
18 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors
An unbelievable try here. Campbell puts up a bomb about 40m from the Warriors line only for it to go almost backwards. It's fielded by a Panthers player who attempts to pass it back only to see Mannering swoop and run 60m to score. Martin converts and the Warriors are making hay while the sun shines.
22 min: NEWS The Panthers are being torn apart here. Lewis has left the field with what can only be described as a near-severed finger. There's blood everywhere reminiscent of Jason Stevens in the 1993 Grand Final. Hookey also went down a few tackles later and Mannering almost put another one on them.
Aiton slips into five-eighth giving the Panters a very small halves pairing.
26 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
After a scrappy passage of play, the Panthers spread the ball wide and Galea finds some room with a good pass from Campbell assisting. Campbell adds the extras and we've got a tight contest on our hands.
29 min: NEWS Campbell kicks the ball out on the full handing the Warriors another good opportunity. He is having a very up and down match.
35 min: NEWS Very greasy conditions here with Rapira loosing the ball whilst playing it, giving Penrith a good opportunity.
37 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
Penrith take the lead as Lee Hookey works a gap on the western side of the field and barges his way to the line. Campbell kicks it from the sideline and the visitors hold an unexpected lead close to the break.
40 min: NEWS The Warriors go close again just as the bell sounds with Ah Van narrowly missing in the south-western corner. The Warriors do look the more enthusiastic outfit and I think they should beat the Panthers.
Penrith have settled down a lot in the back end of the half, showing more committment and better execution. This one will go down to the wire with the winner keeping themselves withing striking distance of the top 8.
41 min: NEWS New Zealand restart us here at Ericsson Stadium.
46 min: NEWS End to end stuff here with both teams pressing the line but unable to score. Still a few handling errors but you can see there's a bit of desperation creeping into the game as both sides realise what's potentially at stake.
48 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors
Wiki scores under the sticks after Rovelli took on the line and flicked a neat pass back. Martin converts and the Warriors are back in front.
49 min: NEWS A try goes begging for the Warriors as Ropati makes a huge break only to hold up the pass too long and they stuff it.
52 min: NEWS The Warriors are playing very enterprising footy but need to convert it into points or risk handing the lead back to Penrith.
56 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors
Sensational length of the field effort with Ah Van making a break on his own line after scooping up a grubber. He dashes 70m before giving it to Martin on the inside who outlasts Rooney to score in the corner. Terrific try. Martin converts his own try, as so often happens, and the Warriors hold a good 8-point lead.
61 min: NEWS Crowd: 8,723. Disappointing considering the Warriors are shooting for 4 in a row.
64 min: TRY Penrith Panthers
Campbell chips into the in-goal area and Priddis comes up with the ball, planting it just before the dead ball line. The Panthers are back in it and Campbell converts to reduce the deficit to 2 points.
67 min: PENALTY GOAL Penrith Panthers
Penrith draw level through Preston Campbell. Could we be going to extra time?
73 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors have scored through Brent Webb and look to be home and not only that, but their finals dream is very much alive. Penrith are in real strife now.
79 min: NEWS Tony Martin misses an easy shot at field goal and the Panthers have one more chance to send the game into golden point.
80 min: NEWS It's full time and the Warriors have defeated the Panthers 28-22 and have recorded their fourth consecutive win. The Warriors face the Bulldogs next week while the Panthers are at home against the Raiders.
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Simon Mannering
2 - Jerome Ropati
1 - Ruben Wiki