League: Junior Warriors fall short

Raymond Faitala-Mariner scores in the Junior Warriors' defeat to the Panthers. Photo / Getty Images
Raymond Faitala-Mariner scores in the Junior Warriors' defeat to the Panthers. Photo / Getty Images

Panthers 42 Junior Warriors 30
John Ackland's farewell from the Warriors didn't quite work out as he would have planned.

His Junior Warriors side have lost their Holden Cup grand final against Penrith 42-30 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney in a disappointing end to Ackland's eight-year stint at the club.

Ackland, who leaves the Warriors after an apparent difference with NRL coach Matt Elliott, will begin work at the end of the month as the NZRL's national game development manager.

The 55-year-old is the most successful NYC coach of all time and tonight was chasing his third title in four years.

But Penrith's regeneration under Phil Gould and Ivan Cleary was apparent in their performance as they held out a second half revival by the Warriors.

The Panthers win showcased brilliant talent, but more importantly resilience under pressure.

The Warriors couldn't compete with the speed and power of the Panthers, who raced away to a 34-6 lead.

But with 24 minutes left on the clock and on the back of eight consecutive penalties, the Warriors piled on four tries to get within four and set up a thrilling finish with 12 minutes left.

Penrith fullback Kieran Moss was sin-binned for a professional foul in the set before, and the Warriors appeared destined for their third Holden Cup premiership as they took all the momentum into the final 10 minutes.

Despite still being in front on the scoreboard, it was the Panthers who now needed to fight back.

The final courageous effort came from Jack Gibson medal winner James Roberts, who dashed 40 metres downfield to lay the platform for opposite centre Waqa Blake to crash over and seal the result.

Speedster Roberts proved almost untouchable in his six NRL games this season, and it was much the same in the National Youth League decider.

Roberts scored two scintillating first half tries, while winger George Jennings set the grand final tone for Roosters' brother Michael, nabbing a try and setting up another.

The Panthers fought bravely in first grade this season, finishing just one win out of the top eight with an inexperienced roster.

And the performance of Garth Brennan's Holden Cup team to convert a second-placed finish to a premiership, was confirmation of the club's promise.

The Panthers faced a heap of adversity throughout the 80 minutes, losing halfback and captain Daniel Foster after just 15 minutes with the scores locked at 6-6.

The Warriors, despite the inspired attacking play of halves Tuimoala Lolohea and Mason Lino, couldn't quite complete a comeback which would have been extraordinary even by Holden Cup standards.

Minor premiers Cronulla won the NSW Cup grand final 36-8 over Windsor Wolves. AAP


- NZ Herald

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