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Panthers overcome brave Warriors in bruising encounter

Nathan Cleary helped the Panthers return to the winner's circle with an 18-6 triumph against the Warriors in a bruising encounter he described as the toughest of the season.

The Warriors lost winger Ed Kosi, second-rower Jackson Ford and prop Bunty Afoa to injuries during the match and twice had to play with a man in the sin-bin but the game wasn't decided until Spencer Leniu scored in the 75th minute. 

The class of Cleary proved the difference, with the Kangaroos halfback running 129 metres with the ball, having a hand in two of Penrith's three tries and maintaining pressure on the Warriors defence with his kicking game.

"That was the hardest game of the year, I reckon," Cleary told Fox Sports. "It is massive respect to the Warriors for what they have been able to build.

Leniu steams in

"They weren't going away, they kept showing up and even when we thought they were tired they kept being there. It was bloody tough and I am real happy to win that one."

The Warriors dominated the opening stages and were rewarded when prop Addin Fonua-Blake crossed in the 10th minute after halfback Shaun Johnson combined with lock Tohu Harris.

Fonua-Blake strolls over

The try followed a break by Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who was stopped short of the tryline on the previous tackle by Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards and centre Sunia Turuva.

A big hit by Ed Kosi rocked Penrith star Stephen Crichton but the Warriors winger came off second best after injuring his knee and he was effectively a passenger until finally replaced in the 30th minute.

The Panthers targeted the Warriors' left side, where Kosi was defending, in consecutive sets after centre Adam Pompey spilled a kick near his own line and infringements by Afoa and Marata Niukore. 

Edwards shows and goes

The pressure eventually took its toll when Edwards stepped his way across the tryline in the 20th minute off a Cleary pass.

The Panthers matched the Warriors in the physicality stakes, with a brutal shot by Crichton jolting the ball loose from Dylan Walker, who returned serve when he and Fonua-Blake combined to perform a heavy tackle on Zac Hosking.

The premiers continued to target Kosi's edge and they took the lead when Cleary and co-captain Isaah Yeo combined and linked with Edwards, who put star winger Brian To'o over in the corner.

Kosi was soon forced from the field after another heavy tackle by Crichton, forcing a backline reshuffle, but the visitors refused to let up and it took another trysaving tackle by Turuva to stop a runaway Wayde Egan from scoring.  

Try saver from Turuva

The Panthers led 12-6 at half-time and a 50th minute Cleary penalty goal put them further ahead as the Warriors bravely hung on amid a mounting injury toll and the sin-binning of Jackson Ford and Demitric Sifakulato.

The Warriors did not concede a point while Leniu was in the sinbin for a hip drop tackle on Spencer Leniu, but the Gerringong-born second-rower did not return after being ruled out by the team doctor.

Ford sent to the bin

Sifakulato received his marching orders in the 65th minute after singling out Cleary during a melee sparked by a rib-rattling tackle by the Panthers playmaker on Josh Curran.

Watene-Zelezniak reluctantly left the field after being ordered to undergo a HIA by the independent doctor, while Bunty Afoa came from the field late in the match.

Down to 12 men on the field and with just one player on the bench, the Warriors were unable to hold Penrith out and Leniu sealed the win when he crashed over five minutes before full-time. 

Match snapshot

  • Penrith's win ensured the premiers avoided three consecutive losses for the first time since 2019.
  • Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards ran 237 metres with the ball, scored a try, produced a try assist, two line-breaks and a try saving tackle.
  • Penrith winger Brian To'o ran a game high 246 metres with the ball and has now scored six tries in his past four games against the Warriors.
  • Warriors captain Tohu Harris made 48 tackles and carried the ball 132 metres - the most by any of his side's forwards.
  • The Panthers have won their past seven games against the Warriors.
  • The Warriors have won only one of their past seven games at Suncorp Stadium.
  • Panthers forwards Isaah Yeo (147m), Spencer Leniu (115m) , Zac Hosking (106m), Lindsay Smith (107m) and James Fisher-Harris (104m) each carried the ball for more than 100 metres. 
  • Warriors winger Marcelo Montoya ran 196 metres with the ball in his 100th NRL appearance.

Play of the Game

Warriors winger Ed Kosi set the tone for the physical encounter when he produced one of the hits of the season on Penrith centre Stephen Crichton in the opening exchanges.

However, Kosi came off second best and was effectively a passenger on the left wing after a clash of knees with Crichton and the Panthers targeted the edge where he was defending to score two first half tries. 

Kosi folds Crichton

What they Said

"It’s a good feeling to get any two points this year; it’s a hard battle each and every week, well it has been for us and it was certainly that today. I am very happy actually, it was a tough game out there. They started really well, but I was happy with our start, we got some execution things wrong early on, but our intent was good I thought, better than we have been doing recently. They threw a lot as us, their first try was really good footy for them and we adjusted a little bit defensively after that which is good." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary

Panthers: Round 10

"I thought our ruck control was keeping us in the game, the way we ended our sets and the way we executed and the try we scored, that just shows how good we can look. But we’ve got to give ourselves more opportunity to be down there but you can’t do that if you don’t win your tackles and put some pressure on through your defence. We let them get down our half too often with discipline, concentration and poor tackling. We made line breaks but couldn’t convert our chances like they did… that was the difference." - Warriors coach Andrew Webster

Warriors: Round 10

What's Next

The Panthers host the Roosters at BlueBet Stadium next Friday night, while the Warriors travel to Sydney to take on the Bulldogs at Accor Stadium in the 6pm match.

With Samoan World Cup prop Spencer Leniu returning from a calf injury against the Warriors, the Panthers have no other players due back in coming weeks.

Warriors forward Mitch Barnett (neck) and utility Luke Metcalfe (hamstring) are scheduled to return next week but winger Ed Kosi is in doubt after being forced from the field in the first half with a knee injury.

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.