The greatest Kiwi spine of all-time can't play behind an ordinary pack
If there was ever proof about the above statement this game was a slam dunk. The spine of hooker Issac Luke, halves Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was superb in the first 40 minutes a week after the combination was described as "the greatest Kiwi spine in history." They combined for some beautiful sweeping back-line plays, with everyone in motion, and proved hard to handle. This of course came on the back of a huge weight of possession and getting a roll on that the Panthers simply couldn't halt. Foran was heavily involved and did it all with class. Johnson was dangerous - although he'd actually been better in previous weeks - while Luke and Tuivasa-Sheck showed touches of class. Fast forward to the second half and without any dominant platform from which to work we hardly saw Foran at all. Johnson played in a dinner suit and Luke ran out of gas badly. Tuivasa-Sheck was indecisive and had a shocker. They do form a great spine but only when they get presented with front-foot ball otherwise it looks rather mediocre.
The first half wasn't as good as it appeared
At halftime Warriors fans would have been rejoicing a terrific performance and the 28-6 score line certainly suggested that was the case. But upon closer examination the Panthers really handed that advantage to the Warriors on a platter. Two intercept tries, mistakes at their own end of the field and a lack of line speed and defensive muscle made the Warriors first half look better than it was. The Warriors were good, no doubt about it, but not 28-6 good. Likewise in the second half - Penrith were very good but the Warriors certainly contributed significantly to the landslide result.
Don't the Warriors miss Simon Mannering?
In our live blog of the game a punter asked me about whether the Warriors were missing the work-horse lock at halftime. I answered no because they didn't have to do much defending. The second half showcased just how valuable Mannering is to the side. He can't be at every part of the defensive line at once but at least the part of the line where he is stationed is secure. It was so obvious the former captain wasn't on the park during the second 40 as the Panthers cut loose through the middle. It actually makes you wonder how bad things might have been over the past five and bit seasons had Mannering not been ever-present. It is getting harder and harder to see the Warriors winning a premiership while the former skipper is still playing and that will go down as one of the great shames of the NRL - he deserves a premiership as much as anyone.