Panthers punish the Warriors at Panthers Stadium
The depleted Panthers returned to winning ways with a 36-4 thumping of New Zealand Warriors at Panthers Stadium on Friday night.
Young halfback Jarome Luai starred in his first match as a starting NRL half, scoring a double, assisting a try and grabbing another try involvement as the Panthers claimed a huge upset victory.
A Shaun Johnson cut-out pass in the 3rd minute saw Ken Maumalo break into open space, however the play was pulled back as the football travelled forward.
The Warriors found themselves in a three-on-one situation in the red zone in the 7th minute and looked destined to score before Christian Crichton rushed out of the line and wrapped up Isaiah Papali'i to shut down the dangerous situation.
The Warriors continued to target the Panthers right-side defence to no avail as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck threw a forward pass in the 14th minute.
Strong running by Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris delivered the Panthers into striking range where back-to-back dropouts were forced and consecutive penalty goal opportunities were turned down in the 24th minute.
The decision to resist the two points paid off as Jarome Luai danced down the short side and sent a clever grubber to the wing for Tyrone Phillips to pounce on. Luai, who assumed goal-kicking duties, failed from the touchline and the score remained 4-0 after 27 minutes.
Luai then turned from assister to scorer in the 28th minute when he blitzed the Warriors goal line defence with some dazzling footwork and crossed the stripe for his first NRL try. The halfback then slotted the goal to extend the Panthers lead to 10 points.
The Panthers continued to dominate proceedings and increased their lead in the 37th minute as Luai slotted a penalty goal.
A Jack Hetherington line break carried the Panthers deep into the Warriors half where referee Ben Cummins awarded a penalty. Luai skewed the goal attempt and the difference remained 12 points.
HALF-TIME: PANTHERS 12-0 WARRIORS
The Warriors looked set to open their account in the 43rd minute when David Fusitu'a leaped for the try line, but the flying winger was barrelled into touch by Waqa Blake in cover defence.
The Warriors turned their attention to the Panthers left edge in the opening 10 minutes of the second stanza but came up empty handed as both Shaun Johnson and Peta Hiku threw the football into touch.
A long-range effort saw the Panthers stretch their lead in the 54th minute as Viliame Kikau offloaded to Phillips, who dashed beyond halfway. The winger linked up with Waqa Blake on his inside, who marked his return from injury with a try. Luai converted to give the Panthers an 18-0 lead.
The Panthers appealed for their fourth try in the 55th minute Christian Crichton dived over in the corner off a Tyrone May speculator, but the pass was deemed forward.
There was not a shade of doubt in the 58th minute when Luai threw a dummy before spinning the ball to May, who then got the ball away to Kikau. The second rower strolled away for a try, and Luai booted the goal to take the score to 24-0.
A James Tamou line break off a Fisher-Harris offload carried the Panthers into the Warriors half where Luai added another instalment to his own highlights reel. The halfback took on the line and beat several defenders en route to the try line before kicking a fifth goal to see the Panthers crack 30 points.
The bloodbath continued in the 72nd minute when Trent Merrin got the ball away to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, and Corey Harawira-Naera charged onto a face ball by the fullback to touch down. Another Luai conversion put the Warriors ahead 36-0.
Warriors winger Ken Maumalo scored in the corner in the 77th minute at the end of a backline shift, but it was far too little and late as the Panthers came away with a stunning 32-point victory.
FULL-TIME: PANTHERS 36-4 WARRIORS