Penrith's second half with-the-wind dominance delivered 16 unanswered points to give them a 30-18 win over the Vodafone Warriors in tonight's 10th-round NRL encounter at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The Vodafone Warriors had an 18-14 halftime lead but it proved to be inadequate as when they faced playing into a stiff wind in the second half.
The weather gods weren't kind the last time the NRL came to town with the old AMI Stadium (Lancaster Park) lashed by rain and sleet. It was frigid.
It was an almost balmy May evening this time but the city was buffeted by howling north westerly air flow blowing straight down the venue.
Penrith made some significant pre-game switches. Out of the side was centre Waqa Blake with second rower Isaah Yeo moving out a spot to replace him and New Zealander James Fisher-Harris coming into the second row.
There was also a switch at hooker with the versatile Tyrone Peachey (later moved to the left edge) promoted to start and James Segeyaro strategically placed on the bench so he could be injected when the Vodafone Warriors brought on Issac Luke. Coming onto the bench was former Vodafone Warrior Suaia Matagi who, around this time last season, was set to make an impact for the Sydney Roosters against his former club.
After steady opening sets from each side, the Panthers' second set in possession produced what has regularly become an obligatory opening penalty of most contests against the Vodafone Warriors.
Penrith, playing into the strong wind, made an error from the repeat set handing the 'visitors' the ball just inside their half.
They set up to attack the left, threatened and then on the last tackle Solomone Kata delivered some magic, weaving and bursting his way past or through half a dozen defenders for his eighth try of the season. Johnson's conversion was superb from the touchline to make it 6-0 after six minutes.
There was disruption, though, with centre Blake Ayshford off the field to be checked for a head knock and Matt Allwood coming on.
Penrith turned up the heat, piling on defensive pressure to drive the Vodafone Warriors behind their line. An attempted offload went loose and Jamie Soward swooped for a try he converted to lock it up 6-6.
Back-to-back penalties were blown against the Vodafone Warriors - making it 3-0 to Penrith inside 15 minutes - and from the last of them Soward nailed a penalty for an 8-6 lead.
The Vodafone Warriors didn't help themselves from the restart, failing to judge the wind to send the ball dead on the full. Penalty on halfway to the Panthers and the chance to set up camp again.
They cashed in immediately, going to their left, keeping the ball alive for Peachey to cut through. No obstruction was checked, referee Matt Cecchin awarding the try after minimal deliberation (as it would transpire, there were issues with a malfunctioning bunker). Soward's conversion had Penrith out to a 14-6 lead.
Finally the Vodafone Warriors received some charity in the penalty count, two shouts their way putting them right on attack. They aimed left again, a lovely long ball from fullback Tuimoala Lolohea giving wing Jonathan Wright a shot at the corner. He finished off perfectly, bulldozing past highly-regarded Kiwi Dallin Watene-Zelezniak for his third try of the season. Again Johnson was stunning with the conversion to bring the score-line back to 12-14 after 25 minutes.
Five minutes later the Vodafone Warriors were back in front courtesy of another well-executed try.
This time the play went right, Johnson turning on the footwork, making a half break and feeding Bodene Thompson on his right. The second rower shipped a high pass to Ayshford and he found his way through for his fourth try for his new club. Johnson's third straight conversion from wide out had his side leading 18-14.
The Panthers thought or hoped they'd drawn level again when Matagi planted the ball over the line but it was a clear case of double movement with captain Ryan Hoffman coming up with the big play as he hung onto the Penrith prop to complete the tackle before he promoted the ball.
Travelling into the brisk airflow, the Vodafone Warriors opened the second half impressively from the restart to get good field position but found no reward.
The Panthers had periods on attack, too, but the Vodafone Warriors resisted and on the 55-minute mark earned an opportunity when they harried Soward into an error. The crowd was in raptures as Soward rebuked himself; disappointingly nothing was to come of it as the last tackle option went awry.
As they came back at Penrith once more a few minutes later, the ball was again turned over through a loose offload and this time it hurt. A penalty soon after had the Panthers sniffing points and they found them as Peachey came back on the angle to score his second. Soward's conversion had his side ahead 20-18.
Just when the Vodafone Warriors were gaining some good field position they lost the ball again, the turnover eventually leading to a Watene-Zelezniak try for a 24-18 lead.
Regaining possessiion from the restart, the Vodafone Warriors threw everything at the Panthers in search of levelling the scores. Kata pushed hard at the line but his pass was intercepted by Watene-Zelezniak, his long break finished off on the opposite edge with Peachey's third try of the night.
The result leaves the Vodafone Warriors with a 4-6 record heading to New Plymouth to face Canberra in a 'home' game next Saturday night.
Match details | AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Penrith Panthers 30 (Tyrone Peachey 3, Jamie Soward, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak tries; Jamie Soward 4 conversions, penalty).
Vodafone Warriors 18 (Solomone Kata, Jonathan Wright, Blake Ayshford tries; Shaun Johnson 3 conversions).
Halftime: 18-14 Vodafone Warriors.
Referees: Matt Cecchin and David Munro.
Vodafone Warriors | Tuimoala Lolohea; David Fusitu'a, Blake Ayshford, Solomone Kata, Jonathan Wright; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Jacob Lillyman, Jazz Tevaga, James Gavet; Bodene Thompson, Ryan Hoffman (c); John Palavi. Interchange: Issac Luke, Ben Matulino,