Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Panthers come back to win after Warriors absent second half

Wing Jonathan Wright scored one of the Warriors three first half tries. Photo / Getty
Wing Jonathan Wright scored one of the Warriors three first half tries. Photo / Getty

The wait goes on. It's nearly halfway through the season and the Warriors still haven't produced an 80-minute performance.

There were good moments today but not enough of them as they slumped to a 30-18 loss to the Panthers. It's a defeat that will only intensify the pressure on coach Andrew McFadden, as this was the kind of match the Warriors needed to win.

But Penrith were simply better - more composed, clinical and resilient.

"Our execution at critical times, that was all there was to it," reflected McFadden. "In the first half, we gave away some soft points and in the second came up with some soft errors. They were critical points in the game and the opposition took their opportunities."

The match was probably lost in the last 20 minutes of the first half as the Warriors failed to take advantage of a strong wind and their four-point halftime lead never looked enough.

That was highlighted when the Panthers scored three times in the last 20 minutes.

"We've been accused of not having effort but you couldn't say that tonight," said captain Ryan Hoffman. "[But] effort doesn't get you the two points ... effort and execution does."

The Warriors still lack a sense of occasion and an ability respond to momentum swings. Game sense is missing, as is game management.

It was a sweet-and-sour performance from halfback Shaun Johnson on a night when conditions made it difficult for playmakers. He twice kicked out on the full and also gifted the Panthers their first try when he tried to offload inside his own in-goal, but the spark was back in his running game.

Thomas Leuluai's return at five-eighth made a difference. He was heavily involved in two of the Warriors tries and his direct approach opened up space for Johnson.

The capacity Christchurch crowd created easily the best atmosphere of the season, with deafening noise, but the conditions were tough. The gale force winds made every pass precarious.

The Warriors made the ideal start, with Solomone Kata crashing through five tackles to score from close range. As is their trademark, the Warriors then found a new bizarre way to concede a try, with Johnson's panicked offload behind his own tryline dived on by Jamie Soward.

It's all about options. Fullback Tui Lolohea had almost been corralled into his on in-goal on the previous play and needs to learn that not every kick return needs to be a dazzling sidestepping run. And Johnson couldn't have picked a worse time to run from dummy half.

Things didn't improve for the halfback, as a Tyrone Peachey try extended the Panthers' lead after Johnson sent the kickoff over the deadball line on the full.

Johnson made amends, combining with Leuluai to send Jonathan Wright across, then sparking another break with a mazy run that ended with Blake Ayshford diving over.

Peachey took the Panthers back into the lead with a slashing try in the 62nd minute, after the Warriors had failed to make the most of rare time in opposition territory. The visitors wrapped up the match with a Dallin Watene-Zelezniak try in the 73rd minute, although there was a suspicion of obstruction, before Peachey sealed a wonderful match with his hat-trick.

Panthers 30 (J Soward, T Peachey 3, Watene-Zelezniak tries, J Soward 3 goals)
Warriors 18 (S Kata, J Wright, B Ayshford tries, S Johnson 3 goals)
Halftime: 18-14

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 25 Feb 2017 13:24:13 Processing Time: 538ms