New Zealand Warriors recorded back-to-back victories with a comfortable 30-10 victory against a listless Penrith Panthers side tonight in front of 10084 fans at Penrith Stadium.
The visitors belied their poor record at the foot of the mountains, putting together a sublime performance headlined by an 18-point performance from Patrick Herbert, as the Warriors won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Tries to Issac Luke, Patrick Herbert, Kodi Nikorima and Agnatius Paasi helped them past the 30-point barrier tonight.
Where to go now for Penrith? Ivan Cleary wrung the changes to his backline, but the attack continued to struggle. Panthers dominated possession in the opening exchanges but errant passes, sloppy errors and some baffling decision making saw them squander opportunities across the whole contest. The pressure will continue to mount on imcumbent Blues halves, Nathan Cleary and James Maloney as the Panthers fell to 2-7.
For the Warriors, this might be the victory that sets them up for a run this season. The visitors cut a swathe through the middle - Luke, Paasi and Tohu Harris - set the platform for Nikorima and Blake Green to create. Nikorima started to look comfortable in his new surroundings, with a wonderful piece of skill to ice the contest. There was also a return to the half sniffing around the ruck to find and create line-breaks.
After they soaked up the early pressure, Warriors struck through veteran Luke. He feigned to pass wide before the hooker darted underneath several lax defenders to score. Centre Patrick Herbert made it 12-nil after a strong effort that saw him dive across and the reverse of the start that the Warriors had in Magic Round last weekend.
Herbert drove a stake through the Panthers heart with his three penalty goals in the game along with his four conversions for an 18-point haul, continuing his strong start to a first grade career. This was a much more measured and slick performance from the Warriors as they reversed their torrid run in the west, securing their fourth win of the season, mostly built on defense.
A side not famed for their defense, the Warriors repelled 40+ tackles from the Panthers in their red zone which included four repeat sets. Their only concession came late in the contest, but the Warriors built a solid foundation with their defense, which they trusted through taking the repeat penalty goals, knowing they can repel the home side.
Panthers did find a pair of consolation scores through youngster Liam Martin and Villiame Kikau, but it was scant solace for a side that might be rock bottom after the weekend. Lacking ideas, execution and passion it looks a long time removed from their appearance in the finals series last year.
The clock will continue to tick for Ivan Cleary if he can't get the side to click, and click soon. He takes the listless Panthers to Bankwest Stadium next round to face local rivals the Eels.
For the Warriors, they host the Broncos next week.