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

NRL: New Zealand Warriors handed a playoff lifeline

Panthers 15 Titans 14
Matthew Moylan and Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrate keeping the Warriors in the hunt. Photo / Getty
Matthew Moylan and Nathan Cleary of the Panthers celebrate keeping the Warriors in the hunt. Photo / Getty

The Warriors are still alive in 2016 - just.

With destiny out of their own hands after two successive defeats, the Panthers did their bit for the Auckland club, with a nail-biting 15-14 win on the Gold Coast tonight.

A 78th minute Matthew Moylan field goal sealed victory for the Sydney club, after the Titans had come back strongly from a 14-0 halftime deficit.

A Titans victory - or a draw - would have effectively eliminated the Warriors from playoff contention, but now the finals door remains open for the Mt Smart club.

It is still a complicated scenario, as the Warriors need to beat the Tigers tomorrow and the Eels next week, and hope the Titans get no profit from next weekend's trip to Townsville, but far from impossible.

It is ironic that Penrith might have salvaged the Warriors' campaign, as late season defeats to the Western Sydney club have proved terminal for the Mt Smart outfit over the last few years.

Meanwhile, Warriors assistant coach Andrew Webster is believed to be heading back across the Tasman. Webster is likely to be returning to the Tigers, where he coached their Holden Cup team to the 2014 finals.

It will mean another reshuffle in the Warriors coaching ranks next season, after they have had a different combination of assistant coaches for each of the last three seasons (2014, Adam Mogg and Ricky Henry; 2015, Andrew Webster and Tony Iro; 2016, Andrew Webster and Justin Morgan).

Head coach Andrew McFadden has been walking the tightrope over the past three months, after the team's dire start to this campaign. What happens over the next seven days will decide his future, as missing the finals for a fifth successive season will be unpalatable for the club's power brokers.

McFadden could still be retained even if the Warriors miss the top eight, but that prospect has diminished with the results of the past two weeks. But while continuity has its advantages, the flat performances against the Rabbitohs and Cowboys have damaged his case.

Titans 14 (L. Pulu, G. Bird tries; T. Roberts 3 goals)
Panthers 15 (M. Moylan, W. Blake tries; N. Cleary 3 goals, M. Moylan field goal).
Halftime: 14-0.

- NZ Herald

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