Captain Ryan Hoffman says the Warriors defence will need to be on high alert to contain a young and powerful Penrith outfit in Saturday's vital NRL clash at Mt Smart Stadium.

The eighth-placed visitors will be undaunted by their second trip across the Tasman following their 30-18 'home' win over the ninth-ranked Warriors in Christchurch back in round 10.

Anthony Griffin's Panthers have grown in skill and confidence since then and taken their game to another level in the last fortnight, with an impressive mix of adlib and structured play helping them to back-to-back wins over Parramatta and Brisbane.

Hoffman is wary of the Panthers unpredictable play that relies on the power and subtleties of some big young forwards and the composed and creative talents of fledgling playmakers Nathan Cleary and Bryce Cartwright and NSW Origin star Matt Moylan.


"They're young blokes and they're big and they run hard and they're playing really confident," warned Hoffman.

"They'll get a lot of confidence out of their win against the Broncos because not too many people go to Suncorp on a Friday night and get the win like that. So they've done really well and they've got their tails up.

"I don't think they fear coming over to New Zealand and they're going to be quite confident coming to our place. That just shows that we've got to be on board in attack but also defensively as well."

The ball-playing ability of 21-year-old back-rower-turned-five-eighth Cartwright is well known, but hard-running prop Leilani Latu (23) looms as another threat that can either punch through the line or pass before the defence, as he did to put Moylan over for a try in the second-half against Brisbane.

On that occasion it was an offload from150-game veteran lock Trent Merrin that provided the second-phase ball for his fellow forward, and Hoffman said the Warriors could not afford to relax until the visitor's ball-runners are contained.

"You're not going to stop all of them but it's how we react after the ball goes," he said. "We spend a lot of our time and a lot of our focus on our reaction (defensively) and we need to react positively this week."

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden wants his players to be prepared for any scenario when the Panthers have possession in attack.

Much like the Warriors, Penrith's style can disrupt the best defensive structures through their unorthodox blend of flair and percentage play.

"They're a bit of an awkward side," said McFadden. "They play a different style of footy, they've got very skilful and agile people so we're going to have to defend well.

"It's like every team, you need that balance. They did play some structure (last week) but off the back of that they just threw the ball around.

"We're just going to have to make sure that we handle them as a line."

After consecutive golden point heartbreakers, the Warriors know winning the first of their remaining four home matches is crucial to regaining a foothold in the top eight.

"These last six rounds, every game really is important," said Hoffman. "Especially with the Panthers, we're just under them and the (next week's opponent) Titans (seventh) are around us too.

"There's some really important games for us and it's a challenge we're looking forward to."

Warriors v Panthers
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday, 5pm
Warriors: Tuimoala Lolohea, Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu'a, Solomone Kata, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Issac Luke, Ben Matulino, Bunty Afoa, Ryan Hoffman (c), Simon Mannering.

Interchange: Jazz Tevaga, Sam Lisone, James Gavet, Blake Ayshford.

Panthers: Matt Moylan (c), Josh Mansour, Waqa Blake, Tyrone Peachey, Dallin Watene Zelezniak, Bryce Cartwright, Nathan Cleary, Leilani Latu, Peter Wallace, Suaia Matagi, Isaah Yeo, James Fisher-Harris, Trent Merrin.

Interchange: Moses Leota, Sitaleki Akauola, Chris Grevsmuhl, Zak Hardaker, Andy Saunders, Viliame Kikau (two to be omitted).

Referees: Grant Atkins, Chris Sutton.