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The New Zealand Warriors have defeated the Penrith Panthers 24-20 at CUA Stadium this evening.
In a match that had equally significant purpose for both sides with the Warriors looking to secure fourth spot and a home final, while the Panthers were looking to avoid the wooden spoon and send departing half Craig Gower out a winner.
Penrith had their chances, racing to a 14 nil lead and at that stage it looked as though the string of upsets was set to continue but the Warriors came racing back into the match, scoring 18 points in the final five minutes before half time and take the lead into the break.
The second half was a much more dour affair, with both sides scoring one try but it was the Warriors who prevailed, with some excellent goal line defence and quick play the balls to snuff out the Panthers chances.
Todd Byrne grabbed a double to notch up his 49th and 50th try respectively
Young Panther rookie Jarrod Sammut had a superb game on a losing side, making breaks, running with purpose and cleaning up at the back on many occasions while for the Warriors, George Gatis was the man to spark the visitors into action with some excellent dummy half running.
Round 25 - Full Time :: September 1st, 2007 07:30 PM Venue: CUA Stadium Referee: Sean Hampstead
Penrith Panthers 20 Tries: Nathan Smith (2), Frank Pritchard Goals: Michael Gordon (4/4) New Zealand Warriors 24 Tries: Grant Rovelli, Todd Byrne (2), Sam Rapira Goals: Michael Witt (4/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: George Gatis (Warriors) 2 Points: Jarrod Sammut (Panthers) 1 Point: Todd Byrne (Warriors)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary 1 min: We are underway at Penrith with the Panthers kicking off to the Warriors.
6 min: Warriors spill the pill right on the Panthers goal line and Penrith start to work the ball upfield with relative ease.
10 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Nathan Smith scores under the posts and the trend of finals sides with everything to play for not turning up looks to be continuing. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 6-0
14 min: Michael Gordon is pushed into touch early in the tackle count and the Warriors now have a chance to put on some points with a full set of six in the Panthers half.
15 min: Warriors cough up the ball on tackle one and the Panthers are off the hook.
19 min: Panthers on the attack but are awarded a penalty due a Warriors player stripping the ball. The Warriors look to be well off the pace at the moment.
20 min: PENALTY GOAL Penrith Panthers The Panthers extend their lead to eight points through a penalty goal to the Panthers. Penrith Panthers 8-0
23 min: Warriors on the attack but Rovelli grubbers the ball straight to Sammut and he takes off upfield and then gets his team a penalty. Great work Panthers, especially Jarrod Sammut.
25 min: TRY Penrith Panthers Nathan Smith is in again and the Warriors are in all sorts of trouble at the moment. They simply have no answer for the Panthers speed, especially Jarrod Sammut. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. Penrith Panthers 14-0
34 min: Warriors playing terrible at the moment, with and without the ball. Dropped balls, no depth in attack and missed tackles are killing the Warriors.
35 min: Possible try to the Warriors...
35 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Todd Byrne scores adjacent to the posts off a Grant Rovelli kick and it was a crucial try just before half time and it may be the catalyst to get the Warriors moving. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Penrith Panthers 14-6
37 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors The Warriors are awake now with Grant Rovelli scoring under the posts to narrow the gap to just two points after playing a terrible first half. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. Penrith Panthers 14-12
40 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors The Warriors are on fire now, and remarkably have taken the lead over the Panthers. Michael Witt did a great crossfield kick and Byrne was there to clean it up and score in the corner. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 18-14
41 min: We are underway in the second half.
42 min: Vatuvei looks to have sustained a serious leg injury as he literally did the splits in the tackle and is now being helped off the field in a great deal of pain.
50 min: Warriors starting to apply some consistent pressure , gaining repeat sets and looking a lot more enthusiatic with the ball.
52 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Sam Rapira scores and the Warriors push further ahead and will be hard to peg back from here. Only Jarrod Sammut is having a go for the Panthers at the moment. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. New Zealand Warriors 24-14
59 min: Penrith knock on with the line wide open and time is starting to work against them as the Warriors continue to lift their intensity in defence.
63 min: Michael Gordon comes up with a great catch on his goal line to snuff out a Warriors try.
65 min: TRY Penrith Panthers The Panthers hit back through Frank Pritchard and we now have a grandstand finish coming up at a very noisy CUA Stadium. Conversion attempt by Michael Gordon successful. New Zealand Warriors 24-20
69 min: Michael Gordon knocks on a Warriors grubber five metres out from his own line and if the Warriors are good enough, they can close it out here and start thinking about next week and a home final.
75 min: Still no change to the score with five minutes remaining but you can be sure neither side will die wondering in the last five minutes of the regular season, with so much at stake for both teams.
79 min: Penrith penalised for a strip and they will now win the wooden spoon for the first time since 2002 from memory.