A makeshift Penrith Panthers NSW Cup outfit have kept their minor premiership hopes alive with an upset 22-10 win over the Warriors in Auckland.
With scores level at halftime, the Panthers stayed in the second half arm wrestle before breaking the deadlock with two converted tries to eke out victory at Mount Smart Stadium.
The two teams went into the clash equal at the head of the table on 32 points alongside Wyong and Mounties. However injuries, along with passport troubles, meant Penrith were forced to call up NYC stars James Fisher-Harris, Corey Harawira and Brent Naden to plug gaps in their new-look lineup.
Despite the new faces, the nature of the early combat reflected the Panthers and Warriors relative positions on the ladder as they scored two tries each in the first half to go to the break locked at 10-10.
The Warriors bookended the first stanza with a double to hooker Siliva Havili while the Panthers were in points-scoring business in the middle stages with an intercept try to centre Waqa Blake followed by a shift left for wing Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to score wide out.
There was nothing in it at that stage and the tone was the same in the opening quarter of the second half.
For much of that period the Warriors enjoyed good field position but couldn’t quite make their plays stick to generate points as a resilient Penrith resisted impressively.
When the Panthers finally had opportunities at the other end they didn’t pass up the invitation.
Their first strike came in the 58th minute when halfback Sam Scarlett exploded on an angled run through the Warriors' line to break the shackles, impressive 20-year-old Corey Harawira-Naera converting to push Penrith out to a 16-10 lead.
The Warriors were staying right in it, though, coming at Penrith with plenty of intensity despite being shorn of many frontline players themselves.
In the end, though, the Panthers were equal to the pressure exerted by the Warriors, not only repelling the home side’s advances but producing the killer play in the 70th minute. They went left, Harawira-Naera running a fantastic line onto a short ball for what was the match-sealing try. He also converted it to have his side 12 points ahead with 10 minutes to play and the Panthers were in no mood to let their opponents back into it.
Match details | Mount Smart Stadium No 2, Auckland
Vodafone Warriors 10 (Siliva Havili 2 tries; Ata Hingano conversion)
Penrith Panthers 22 (Waqa Blake, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Sam Scarlett, Corey Harawira-Naera tries; Corey Harawira-Naera 3 conversions)