A scintillating performance from Jarome Luai has seen the Penrith Panthers defeat the Vodafone Warriors 18-16 at St Marys Leagues Stadium.

Luai had involvements in all three of the Panthers’ tries, setting up two in the first half before scoring the match winner just before full-time. 

The match started with a fairly even first half, with the Panthers entering the sheds with the lead without the majority of field position or possession, which is a credit to their defence.

 They did, however, open the scoring when Luai skipped across the field for what seemed line an eternity, before turning the ball inside to Adam Keighran who, in the polar opposite to his five-eighth, ran directly towards the line without changing direction and could not be stopped.

A fumble from the kick-off saw the Vodafone Warriors gain an immediate chance to respond, and after a repeat set, that’s exactly what they did when Albert Vete – one of the toughest men to bring down in the competition – bulldozed his way through for a four-pointer.

The Vodafone Warriors spent the next period of the match with the ball and having multiple opportunities inside Penrith’s 20-metre zone, but the Panthers defence held strong. 

Penrith almost scored next when Chad O’Donnell intercepted and almost went the length, only to be chased down by Lewis Soosemea. They would, however, be next to trouble the scorers, when Luai once again weaved his magic to throw a sharp, short ball to a charging Liam Martin, who crashed over. 

The Vodafone Warriors were first to score in the second half when Mason Lino threw a long cut-out ball to Blake Ayshford, who only had to beat one defender as he strolled over with ease.

 A rare error by Lino on halfway gave the Panthers a chance to hit back, and they did that through the star of the day, Jarome Luai. On fifth tackle, he put a grubber in that rebounded on the upright, and the crafty five-eighth was there to pick it up and win the game for the Panthers. 

The Vodafone Warriors had one more chance in the dying seconds of the game in the left corner, but the try was disallowed and the Panthers walked away with the two points. 

MATCH DETAILS

At St Marys Leagues Club, Penrith

Penrith Panthers 18 (Adam Keighran, Liam Martin, Jarome Luai tries; Chad O'Donnell 3 conversions).

Vodafone Warriors 16 (Albert Vete, Blake Ayshford, Pat Sipley tries; Mason Lino 2 conversions).

Halftime: 12-6 Panthers.

Referee: Darian Furner.

Vodafone Warriors | Hayze Perham; Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Ayshford, Anthony Gelling, Lewis Soosemea; Chanel Harris-Tavita, Mason Lino (c); Albert Vete, Sam Cook, Chris Satae; Matiu Love-Henry, James Bell (c); Pat Sipley. Interchange: Manaia Cherrington, Sione Afemui, Trent Schaumkel, Reece Charlie.