After falling one win short of the NRL finals for a second year in a row, the Warriors concede their ninth-place finish reflects an average season.

Last night's spirit-crushing defeat to the Panthers at Penrith echoed last year's final-round submission against the Dragons, but coach Andrew McFadden is satisfied his troops have made improvements over the past 12 months.

"We had it all in front of us tonight but we fell short," said McFadden. "We've made some big improvements this year and fought our way and gave us an opportunity to make something of the year but we fell short."

The defeat sees the Warriors miss the finals for a third straight year, with just four wins from 12 starts on the road and an evenly split 12/12 win-loss record underlining their mid-table standing.


Under McFadden they have managed 10 victories and nine defeats, since he replaced former coach Matt Elliott back in April, but he admits their average record is a true reflection of where they stand.

"Yeah probably, we just weren't quite good enough, so it probably does sum it up for us. We got close but not good enough today and sometimes when you lose like this it makes it clearer what you need to do. We're not there yet but I'm determined to turn our inexperience and players into high-performing individuals. I'm certainly very confident that we can turn it around next year."

The Panthers were ruthless in a first half that saw James Segeyaro, Dallin Watene Zelezniak and Matt Moylan post tries, with halfback Jamie Soward contributing two goals for a 16-0 halftime lead.

A 95-metre try to Manu Vatuvei and a Shaun Johnson goal resuscitated the Warriors' hopes after the break but they frittered away attacking opportunities to let the home side off the hook.

A high tackle penalty against Ben Matulino allowed Soward a third goal inside the final quarter and Watene Zelezniak crossed for a second try to seal the result seven minutes from fulltime.

"We started slower than we wanted to and didn't go out with any conviction in that first half," said McFadden, "but we rectified that after halftime and we came out with a bit more purpose in what we did but we just missed too many opportunities and the game got away from us."

Both sides looked tentative in the early stages but four Warriors errors helped the Panthers consolidate possession, while Soward was content to kick early in the tackle count to let them work it off their own line.

Moylan was a key man for the hosts, helping create their opening try for Segeyaro and working a three-on-two to give Watene Zelezniak his first, before turning finisher for their third four-pointer.


The Warriors managed to build some promising attack down the right side through Johnson and Konrad Hurrell but three errors prevented them from capitalising, before lateral running saw Ngani Laumape bundled into touch.

"We just lacked a bit of real polish and execution in our play. At crucial times we came up with an error or made a poor decision. The fundamental stuff around our game just wasn't good enough tonight."

Vatuvei's effort swung the momentum but desperate defence saw Feleti Mateo held up over the line before Soward's penalty goal and Watene Zelezniak's second iced the cake.

Finals schedule
2nd qualifying final:
(2) Sea Eagles v (3) Rabbitohs
1st qualifying final:
(1) Roosters v (4) Panthers
1st elimination final:
(5) Cowboys v (8) Broncos
2nd elimination final:
(6) Storm v (7) Bulldogs

Panthers 22 (James Segeyaro, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2, Matthew Moylan tries; Jamie Soward three goals.

Warriors 6 (Manu Vatuvei try; Shaun Johnson goal)..