Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Penrith too strong for Warriors

Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break during the NRL trial match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Penrith Panthers. Photo / Getty Images.
Shaun Johnson of the Warriors makes a break during the NRL trial match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Penrith Panthers. Photo / Getty Images.

The Warriors have lost their second consecutive trial of 2013, going down 32-18 to Penrith in an entertaining match at Waikato Stadium.

The Panthers completely dominated the first half, scoring four tries to one to hold a 22-4 halftime lead. Matt Elliott's team were better in the second spell but couldn't make up the deficit.

Lewis Brown enjoyed a happy homecoming, scoring two tries in the first half hour.

On a sweltering day in Hamilton the Warriors opened the scoring with a peach of a try in the eighth minute. After some swift dummy half runs, Thomas Leuluai created space for Shaun Johnson. The quicksilver halfback chipped and regathered before lobbing a kick for Manu Vatuvei, who did well to control the touchdown close to the sideline.

Unfortunately it was a something of a false dawn as Penrith dominated the rest of the half and their reply was almost immediate. They marched the length of the field on the back of three successive penalties and Lewis Brown brushed off his marker and sent Josh Mansour over in the corner in the 12th minute.

Brown capped an impressive first quarter with a try under the post, following a long range Penrith break. Dominque Peyroux, who had replaced Konrad Hurrell in the 15th minute, had missed Wes Naiqama number cold, creating the opportunity.

The visitor's hot streak continued after the quarter break. A towering Luke Walsh bomb was split by Bill Tupou - who was hit in a marginally late tackle by Josh Mansour - and a gleeful Lewis Brown was there to pick up the scraps - even coming up with a forward roll as he dived over in the corner.

There was an occasional foray by the Warriors but Penrith were dominating the ruck, go forward and territory and were soon rewarded with their fourth try of the half. After another Tupou knock on - this time a clean spill - the Panthers scored a league rarity, a try direct from a scrum.

Despite the presence of Dane Nielsen - rated as one of the best centres in the game - the left side was exposed, with David Simmons being put on the outside of Vatuvei.

The Warriors started the second half positively and were rewarded with a try to Ngani Laumape in the 48 minutes, after slick work from Simon Mannering and Konrad Hurrell.

After building some momentum, a Johnson fumble gifted Lachlan Coote a try, as the five eighth sprinted 60 metres to dot down under the posts to restore Penrith's sizeable lead.
The local team had dominated the third period of 20 minutes and were rewarded with a fine try, Locke searing down the left sideline to score after nice build-up play from Feleti Mateo and Vatuvei.

The comeback continued in the 67th minute, with Glen Fisiiahi collecting a pinpoint Johnson chip after Pita Godinet was heavily involved in the buildup. However, Mansour's second try in the 75th minute sealed the Penrith result.

Warriors 18 (M.Vatuvei, N. Laumape, K.Locke, G. Fisiiahi tries; S. Johnson goal)
Panthers 32 (J. Mansour 2, L. Brown 2, L.Coote, D. Simmons tries; B. Austin, W. Naiqama, L.Walsh 2 goals)
Halftime: 22-4

- Herald on Sunday

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