David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Warriors will be Panthers fans for a night

Shaun Johnson admits the Warriors will be cheering for the Panthers this weekend. Photo / photosport.nz
Shaun Johnson admits the Warriors will be cheering for the Panthers this weekend. Photo / photosport.nz

The Warriors are putting all their focus into beating Wests Tigers on Sunday but will be cheering for Penrith in Saturday night's NRL game against Gold Coast in a clash pivotal to their own finals hopes.

The Warriors currently occupy ninth place on the NRL ladder and are locked together on 24 competition points with 10th-placed Wests Tigers, with both sides sitting three points behind the eighth-ranked Titans.

Both teams require the Titans to lose their last two games of the regular season against the Panthers and reigning premiers North Queensland, while also needing to win their own final matches to have any hope of sneaking into the top eight.

Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson admits he and his teammates will be watching on nervously on Saturday night, hoping Penrith can deal to the Titans to ensure both sides have more than pride to play for the following day at Mt Smart Stadium.

"We won't lie, it will definitely be a result of interest for us," Johnson told Radio Sport's Martin Devlin. "It's hard not to tune in. Let's go the Panthers."

Regardless of the Titans result and their own finals fate, the Warriors are intent on bouncing back from consecutive losses to the Rabbitohs and Cowboys to finish their regular season strongly.

After working their way back into finals contention through the middle of the season with a nine-week stretch that earned six wins and three golden point losses, the Warriors defence has leaked six tries in each of their last two outings.

With a final home game in round 26 against Parramatta to follow on September 4, Johnson says it is important they provide their fans with something to cheer about.

"Everyone knows that we have to win," he said. "For us it's about coming back and playing our last two games at home and playing well.

"Regardless of whether we get to play (finals) in September, that's out of our hands, but we want to finish the season off right and leave our fans with something that we've been building towards all year.

"The last two games have been disappointing but we don't want to have those games undo all that hard work we've done during the year to give ourselves a chance."

The Warriors have every right to believe the in-form Panthers can do them a favour by toppling the Titans and extend their three-game winning streak.

Since losing in golden point to the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium in round 21, Penrith have racked up 120 points while conceding just 26 in emphatic wins over the Roosters (38-10), Knights (42-6) and Wests Tigers (40-10).

Meanwhile, the Titans have raised their game since losing 24-14 at home to the Warriors in round 22, registering consecutive wins over Wests Tigers (19-18) and Newcastle (26-6).

But should the Titans prevail for a third-straight week and consign the Warriors to a premature season finish for a fifth-straight year, Johnson says his side will have no trouble getting themselves up for what will in many ways be a dead-rubber contest against Wests Tigers.

"I don't think motivation is an issue," Johnson said. "We've let a couple go the last couple of weeks and we just don't want to finish on that sort of note."

- NZ Herald

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