Digital Image Grant Trouville  © nrlphotos.com : Panthers Celebrate after James Segeyaro scores  : NRL Rugby League Round 26 - Penrith Panthers v NZ Warriors at Penrith Stadium Sunday 7th of September 2014.

In front of a crowd of 13,500 at Sportingbet Stadium, the Panthers have secured a top four finish heading into the 2014 finals race after a 22-6 win over the Warriors tonight.

It was a big game for both of these teams. For the Panthers, a loss would drop them back to 6th place on the ladder and meant a probable rematch with the strong kiwi outfit in the semi-finals. The result was more vital for the Warriors – they had to win to make the top 8.

It was also a big match for Coach Ivan Cleary and a few of our Kiwi boys who were fronting up against their former club.

We got some good news before kickoff that Brent Kite would be making his long awaited return from injury, and it was also James Segeyaro’s first match back since the death of his father.

After a nervous start to the match and a few close calls up near our goal line, James Segeyaro made a gallant return to the team and scored our first try! Six minutes in, Matt Moylan broke through the Warriors defence and took off down the field before offloading to Will Smith who sprinted another 20m before being brought down. After another tackle, Chicko took the ball from dummy half and dived underneath a pack of defenders to get the ball over the line! Jamie Soward converted from in front to give the home side a 6-0 lead.

The Warriors almost hit back a few minutes later, but the ref went up to the video to check it was fair play. The review showed that Josh Mansour was taken out of play for the initial kick on the fifth, so it was a no try.

We scored our second try in the 16th minutes thanks to some very speedy footwork from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. After getting the ball up to the 20m line, Soward and Moylan combined to send the ball out to the right where DWZ was waiting on the wing, and he put his head down and charged at the line, leaving several Warriors defenders in his wake. The kick drifted off to the right, so Penrith took a 10-0 lead.

With two minutes until the half time break we had our third try courtesy of some Moylan brilliance! Chicko took the ball from dummy half in front of the posts before passing to Soward who sent the ball left to Moylan, and he side stepped one Warriors defender and jumped over another to dive over the line! Soward made the sideline conversion to take the score to 16-0.

HALF TIME: 16-0 Panthers

Penrith were a little behind the 8-ball coming into the second half and within three minutes we let the Warriors in for their first try. Soward put a kick in 10m out from our line but it was picked up by Manu Vatuvai who took off down the field, sprinting 95m to dive over and score. Shaun Johnson kicked from the sideline to take the score to 16-6.

They almost had another a few minutes later but Penrith’s defenders managed to hold them up over the line, so it was play on.

In the 62nd minute, the Panthers were awarded a penalty from 20m out after Lewis Brown was hit high in a tackle and had to be helped from the field to undergo a concussion test. Soward took the kick for two to extend our lead to 18-6.

With just under 10 minutes remaining, Jamal Idris hit the deck after copping a heavy knock going into a tackle. Lucky for us he was able to get to his feet and was able to play on.

DWZ put the final nail in the coffin after chasing a beautifully timed kick from Will Smith, beating a Warriors player to the ball to get dive on it for the four points! The kick was waved away so Penrith took a 22-6 lead with less than 5 minutes on the clock.

For the last few minutes Penrith had a few more attempts at scoring and didn’t let the Warriors get passed the half way line. As the full time siren sounded, the crowd erupted to congratulate our boys on their top four finish heading into the finals!

FULL TIME: 22-6 Panthers