The Panthers slippedup in a dramatic 20-16 golden point defeat against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
After handling errors undermined their first half, the Panthers fought back after the break to level the game and send it into golden point extra time.
However further errors saw the Warriors eventually claim the win courtesy of a Shaun Johnson try with only a minute of extra time left to play.
The Panthers opened the scoring in the 11th minute after earning a penalty directly in front of the posts. Nathan Cleary stepped up and did the honours to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
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In the 17th minute the Panthers defenders were caught napping as nobody contested a fifth-tackle kick and David Fusitu’a gratefully grabbed the ball for a simple finish. Issac Luke’s conversion was waved away, leaving the score at 4-2.
Handling errors undermined every Panthers attack as the first half wore on. Some of them came from forced passes, others were nothing more than basic errors in the wet conditions.
In the 29th minute it looked like Josh Mansour would score in the corner but the final flick-on from Tyrone Peachey was called forward.
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The Panthers just kept giving the ball back at every opportunity and when Watene-Zelezniak fumbled a grubber at the back, the Warriors finally took their chance.
Some slick hands on the right edge sent winger Ken Maumalo over for a simple finish in the corner. Luke managed to slot the sideline conversion for a 10-2 lead.
HALFTIME – Warriors 10-2
The Panthers got off to the perfect start after the break as Cleary went for a run on the final tackle. Breaking through the line, he offloaded for Isaah Yeo, who in turn found Peachey to stoll over out wide. Cleary then converted to make it 10-8 in the 46th minute.
However the Warriors couldn't be contained for long and after some assistance from the referees, they again found themselves in prime attacking field position. On the end of some slick hands Fusitu'a dived over for his second try in the 52nd minute. Johnson failed with his conversion attempt and the score remained 14-8.
A penalty right in front of the posts was knocked over by Luke with 18 minutes left in the contest, to extend the Warriors lead beyond a converted try.
The Panthers kept themselves in the contest with a bullocking run from Mansour. Slipping one tackle, the winger took on the fullback and crashed his way over in the 65th minute. Cleary couldn't convert, leaving the score 16-12.
A try to Mansour out wide locked the scores up but Cleary was again off target with the boot, leaving the score at 16-16 as the clock ran down.
In the first half of golden point extra time, the Warriors had the perfect opportunity to set up for the field goal but couldn't convert as Luke got wrapped up on the last tackle.
However with less than a minute on the clock Johnson dummied the field goal and broke the line to score the match-winner.
FULLTIME - Warriors 20-16